Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


It's only supposed to be 30% of your income
May 10, 2014 2:05 PM   Subscribe

In Many Cities, Rent Is Rising Out of Reach of Middle Class. Here's What $800 in Rent Gets You in 11 Major Cities

posted by desjardins (293 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Move to an unhip town. Added bonus? If your game was good enough for a hip, expensive city you'll be more likely to be a star.
posted by codswallop at 2:22 PM on May 10 [16 favorites]


That's interesting advice -- head to a smaller pond, fish. I'd love to read an anthropological study of that, and have to believe the side-effects could be quite positive.
posted by mr. digits at 2:24 PM on May 10


Sometimes it's not stardom that compels us to hip cities. Sometimes it's safety.
posted by divabat at 2:27 PM on May 10 [55 favorites]


Moving to an unhip town is much less than useful advice for people who have careers where the jobs are all centralized in the expensive locations.

I'm currently apartment hunting in Oakland and it sucks.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 2:28 PM on May 10 [69 favorites]


The problem with the "move to an unhip town" plan is that it only works if you're the only one with that idea. Rents here used to be really cheap until people from SF and Brooklyn started moving here and now we have buildings full of $1400/month efficiencies that lease out before they're even built.
posted by octothorpe at 2:31 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


In the meanwhile, you can get an apartment in Osaka, one of the largest and densest cities in the first world, for the equivalent of $600/month or even less.

And yet the third largest country in the world by land area charges for housing as though there isn't enough space to go around.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:32 PM on May 10 [21 favorites]


If your game was good enough for a hip, expensive city you'll be more likely to be a star.

Because smaller towns are flush with plum career opportunities in my field of expertise, right?
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:32 PM on May 10 [133 favorites]


"Just move to Tampa and create a theater scene duhhhh." -people in geographically-agnostic industries
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:32 PM on May 10 [62 favorites]


Move to an unhip town. Added bonus? If your game was good enough for a hip, expensive city you'll be more likely to be a star.


Unhip towns tend to be lacking in other amenities, such as jobs. I like cobbling together various projects and hustles for money as much as the next guy, but most people need jobs.

Hip towns aren't hip because cool young people moved in. They're hip because cool young people found jobs and moved in.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 2:33 PM on May 10 [23 favorites]


If you're willing to move to less popular neighborhoods in New York you can get a great deal. Before I met my husband in 2007, I was living in a brownstone in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. It was a 4-bedroom share, and I paid $450.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:33 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


Because moving cities is something poor people can just do on a whim, right?
posted by Faux Real at 2:34 PM on May 10 [64 favorites]


The less popular neighborhoods of New York are terribly unsafe, what with all the dragons and volcanoes and torch- and pitchfork-wielding peasantfolk and whatever else it is that will keep people with too much money away from here.
posted by griphus at 2:35 PM on May 10 [47 favorites]


Move to an unhip town.

Your glib reply is not only incredibly lacking in empathy, it's very wrong.

Did you train to work in fashion design? Then you have to live in NYC. Television? NYC or LA. Want to work in the federal government? Welcome to DC. Want to work for internet startups? SF or NYC.

The problem is that jobs are centralizing, forcing everyone to move to the city to which their chosen profession has centralized. But construction and transportation haven't come close to keeping pace with the population increase. Add in that young people these days have student loans keeping them, for the most part, from buying, and the upwards pressure on rents increases even more.

Now, I'm sure someone will point to an exception ('my friend got a coding job in Lincoln NE once"), but what happens when that startup closes shop? Nothing else in town for you.
posted by overhauser at 2:36 PM on May 10 [51 favorites]


CHUDs. That's it: we have CHUDs.
posted by griphus at 2:36 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]


This is not a mysterious or causeless trend, despite the stupid NYT article's claim that the market itself is somehow "tightening," as though markets just do things sometimes.

Hedge funds have been investing heavily and aggressively in rental properties for some time now. I strongly suspect that the increase in prices is explained mostly by that activity.
posted by clockzero at 2:36 PM on May 10 [56 favorites]


You know what, I know it's mostly people trying to be helpful, and I'm not accusing you of anything codswallop but if people who don't live in these towns could please stop focusing on how great they are for choosing not to live there, and focus instead on the fact that the urban rich are gutting these places by driving up the prices til even they don't want to live there, maybe we could get some more actual systemic political change, like more rent controlled apartments or better public transportation.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:38 PM on May 10 [38 favorites]


So if the first comment doesn't apply to all (and certainly offers no certainty) it has no place, huh?
posted by mr. digits at 2:38 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


The places to be are the semi-hidden semi-hip town meccas - midwest or "flyover state" college towns maybe, small but interesting tech/industry hubs, "micro-urban" places where there's a small set of creatives and hipsters and academics and geeks and plenty of cool things to do, but where you could rent a decent-sized 1 or 2 bedroom for super cheap, and seemingly everyone owns a house with a yard regardless of status. I know of a handful of such places, have lived in one, and while I'm much more of a "big city" type, I'd move to such a place again in a heartbeat if I was financially strapped and the right opportunity opened up.
posted by naju at 2:38 PM on May 10 [10 favorites]


How much of this is rents catching up with purchase prices, though?

I think of an "ideal" rental-and-purchase real estate market being that the mortgage on a 20% down conventional loan is about the same as rent for a similar property. (I may be old-fashioned about this.)

One of the things that made it clear to me that real estate was in a bubble is that the purchase prices for properties was way *way* higher than the equivalent property for rent. We had a market collapse in purchased housing, and it's recovered in some areas, but I don't know if these rents are high compared to purchase prices or not.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:41 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


CHUDs. That's it: we have CHUDs.

That's the ticket, we build a vast underground city and put all the people who can't afford gold plated caviar spoons there! That always works right?
posted by The Whelk at 2:42 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


You Need to Earn $29.83 an Hour to Afford a 1-Bedroom in San Francisco

That doesn't work out by my count. If we're saying rent should be a third of income, that would be about $1725/mo for an apartment. It would be difficult to find a studio for that in SF, let alone a one bedroom. Perhaps they are including what those people already in rent-controlled apartments are paying.
posted by cali at 2:43 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


DoctorFedora: Japan also has an extensive public housing program that keeps landlords from going too crazy on the rent increases: Urban Renaissance.
posted by wuwei at 2:49 PM on May 10 [10 favorites]


That doesn't work out by my count.

The calculation uses HUD reported median apartment price for SF, which includes all of the people who are in way-below-market rent stabilized apartments. Cost of living calculators always do this, which is why they always badly underestimate cost of living for newcomers to SF and NYC.
posted by overhauser at 2:52 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


you can get an apartment in Osaka

What's the square footage/meters on it? When I visited my friends' apartments in Japan they were very, very small spaces. (all in Kansai)
posted by curious nu at 2:52 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


I'm twenty minutes from Ann Arbor (jobs, culture, universities, medical care). We own our home, mortgage cost is about $700. It is a smaller house (1,500 sq ft), but super efficient, interesting, and has a view of (and access to) a chain of 7 lakes on the Huron River. My kayak sits 25 yards from the lake, takes me two minutes to launch....

So, as mentioned above, it all depends on where you are and what you need, life is full of choices. Supply and demand, eh? I choose not to live in L.A., or NY City (or even Ann Arbor itself, where my house would have cost twice as much)..... I gave up the fresh bagels (although, my village bakery makes great donuts), crowds, and the noise of NY for the sound of frogs in the evening , living within walking distance of a nature preserve, and bass fishing....
posted by HuronBob at 2:53 PM on May 10 [19 favorites]


I strongly suspect that the increase in prices is explained mostly by that activity.

I strongly suspect the causality goes the other way; hedge funds invested because they saw the writing on the wall on rent increases.
posted by Justinian at 2:53 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


I gave up the fresh bagels

Now you're just talking dirty.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:54 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


Move to Detroit and start your own...ummm...startup tech company while it's still cheap. Diversify your investment with real estate. When the rest of the country runs out of water and everyone moves to Detroit, you'll be the king of all the world. Plus, you'll get to see Miggy do his magic on the diamond.
posted by NoMich at 2:55 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


Seattle already faces an infestation of "Apodments." For $750 a month, you, too can have a tiny one-bedroom space with no closets and the chance to share not only a kitchen space but also a bathroom with three other neighboring residents and/or resident families. And the marketing behind them is so cheerful and enthusiastic that it makes me feel violent.

It's more than a little horrible that people will actually buy into this. I mean, I imagine anyone who does this kinda has to because of their economic situations... but it's just horrifying.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:55 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


Move to Detroit and start your own...ummm...startup tech company while it's still cheap. Diversify your investment with real estate. When the rest of the country runs out of water and everyone moves to Detroit, you'll be the king of all the world.

Everybody do the gentrification!

(But seriously - I almost moved to Detroit recently. I think there's merit to this.)
posted by naju at 2:56 PM on May 10


Choosing a city with more affordable housing could also involve making a choice about the type of career or job you pursue. The more jobs you are willing or able to do, the more your options for where you can live expand. While it's not true that there are great jobs just out there for the taking all over the place, it's also not true that jobs only exist in certain urban locations.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:57 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]


I live in a house that my buddy owns and he is about to kick me out so he can rent the whole place out for more money. I'm being gentrified by my own friend! What is this world coming to?
posted by pwally at 2:59 PM on May 10 [21 favorites]


These figures are actually slightly less than what it has cost me to rent an apartment in a college town. I know as a grad student I'm supposed to be eating ramen four times a week and fighting with my six roommates over who has to fix the leaky toilet this time, but there are non-students who live here too. Also, I like having my own toilet.

Prices for student housing are insane. For example, there is a new student housing complex geared towards grad students currently in development. The university sponsored a housing survey that was rather transparently about promoting the new complex and gauging how much they could charge; $800 per month was, IIRC, the lowest amount you could choose to pay per month for one bedroom in a six-bedroom apartment in this complex.

Osaka sounds nice.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:00 PM on May 10


it all depends on where you are and what you need, life is full of choices.

Aren't you retired? That's an entirely different scenario than what most people are facing.
posted by desjardins at 3:00 PM on May 10 [18 favorites]


Seattle already faces an infestation of "Apodments." For $750 a month, you, too can have a tiny one-bedroom space with no closets and the chance to share not only a kitchen space but also a bathroom with three other neighboring residents and/or resident families. And the marketing behind them is so cheerful and enthusiastic that it makes me feel violent.

It's more than a little horrible that people will actually buy into this. I mean, I imagine anyone who does this kinda has to because of their economic situations... but it's just horrifying.


This is something I've thought a bit about since I've seen the rise of "a-pod-ments" here, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I feel there's something really, really American about the idea of being horrified about the idea of a smaller living space being the norm. On one hand I can understand why people might perceive it as some kind of neo-tenement living, but on the other hand...isn't a lot of the angst about this grounded in the idea that Americans are used to having lots and lots of living space?
posted by MoonOrb at 3:00 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]


Another factor is transportation. I work remotely, so I could live almost anywhere. But I don't drive, which means that my options for where to live are limited to places big enough (or cool enough) to have comprehensive public transportation. Luckily for me I like having lots of roommates, which makes city living vaguely affordable.
posted by galaxy rise at 3:04 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


I know this doesn't apply to everyone but if you can... live communally. Share rent, bills, cars, food.

I can't imagine living without roommates, I'd get bored and depressed.
posted by cloeburner at 3:04 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


Everybody needs a place to live. A home is such a personal, important part of who we are.

This is why we have such a high regard and reverence for those who provide us with homes - our landlords, real estate developers, and land speculators - and why we compensate them so greatly in return.

Housing is expensive because we value it so greatly. And because we value it, we are grateful to those who provide it for us, and are happy to compensate them handsomely.
posted by Anoplura at 3:05 PM on May 10 [17 favorites]


"Aren't you retired? That's an entirely different scenario than what most people are facing."

I was "retired" for exactly 6 months while I looked to replace the job I had to leave because the agency closed. I'll probably die in my office before I can afford to retire! :-\

I work 5 days a week, as does my teacher wife.... We've chosen this lifestyle, we've downsized in terms of the house (3 years ago) in order to live the way we want within our means...
posted by HuronBob at 3:07 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


You broke my sarcasm detector, Anoplura.
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on May 10 [40 favorites]


the sound of frogs in the evening , living within walking distance of a nature preserve, and bass fishing....

...living in a snowpocalyptic hellscape for half the year and being devoured by unnaturally-large bloodsucking insects and humidity for most of the rest, don't forget those parts. Because if they weren't true, you'd be in California, and you wouldn't be bragging about your low cost of living anymore.

Meanwhile, Austin TX, while being relatively affordable, and having jobs and culture, is also mind-meltingly hot/humid from roughly next week through early October every year, and is also technically part of Texas, so all y'all should stay away from here, too.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:07 PM on May 10 [12 favorites]


It's okay once nobody has a job anymore it won't matter where we live.
posted by The Whelk at 3:09 PM on May 10 [48 favorites]


Compared to traditional apartment living, "a-pod-ments" seem weird and insufficient. Could they end up as a replacement for the residence hotel type dwelling (aka 'flophouse'), which has been driven out of existence in most cities by zoning laws? Or is the price point too much aimed at just-out-of-college grads who are okay with (comparatively) cheap dorm-like living?
posted by rmd1023 at 3:12 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


And this is why you need to build more housing.

NYC and SF in particular suffer from NIMBYism and disincentives from increasing height density or plan building more units. When you grow by x% per year but only add x-y% per year in new housing…
posted by pmv at 3:12 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


I feel there's something really, really American about the idea of being horrified about the idea of a smaller living space being the norm.

That was one of the reasons my parents and I came to America - for more living space. Turns out we could've just stayed in our native land.
posted by Anima Mundi at 3:14 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


One can be a talented and successful local theater actor in many places; but it won't be Broadway or the West End.
posted by humanfont at 3:14 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


I'd move to such a place again in a heartbeat if I was financially strapped and the right opportunity opened up.

That second "if" seems kinda big.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:15 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


Sometimes the "unhip places" are not safe for people with certain colors, ethnic backgrounds or orientations.
posted by Renoroc at 3:16 PM on May 10 [45 favorites]


Minneapolis. Solid hipster infrastructure, services actually delivered with taxes (except snow plowing in St Paul.) How cheap? I am presently looking at a 1918 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with small garage for $995 near the University, light rail and three major freeways. Yes, there are jobs, cable TV and broadband. Yeah, it snows, but in the upcoming centuries long drought we are excellently positioned near the headwaters of the Mississippi. Also, food on a stick. I am a refugee from California, I like it here.
posted by jadepearl at 3:17 PM on May 10 [40 favorites]


pmv-- 100k housing units is what SF would require to meaningfully lower prices. Do you see that happening outside of government intervention? Because I don't.
posted by wuwei at 3:18 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


On one hand I can understand why people might perceive it as some kind of neo-tenement living, but on the other hand...isn't a lot of the angst about this grounded in the idea that Americans are used to having lots and lots of living space?

The difference between having a small apartment, or even studio, with its own kitchen and bathroom vs. having to share it with multiple other residents/families is huge. I would even go so far as to say that it's entirely reasonable to expect this of anything offered up as a home.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:18 PM on May 10 [12 favorites]


Being disabled also limits where you can live, or limits your quality of life in any city you actually do live in.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:19 PM on May 10 [17 favorites]


pmv: "NYC and SF in particular suffer from NIMBYism and disincentives from increasing height density or plan building more units. When you grow by x% per year but only add x-y% per year in new housing…"

Is there evidence that adding new (expensive) units in urban areas actually decreases prices for the rest of us? DC's got a glut of luxury units that developers are desperately trying (and are largely unable) to fill, while the price of everything else continues to creep upward and availability dwindles.
posted by schmod at 3:19 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


I have to assume that the entire $800 in 11 cities list is crap based on how completely wrong wrong wrong Chicago is. $832 for one bedroom in a 4 person unit? Noooooo. I mean, those units for those prices exist, sure, but cheaper places are balls easy to find.

Not saying that rent isn't a huge cost and that it's too high a lot of places, but Chicago is super affordable and that article is just flat out inaccurate.
posted by phunniemee at 3:21 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


So, if the answer is "move to an unhip town" and/or "make different choices" and/or "downsize", what about the people who, say, make coffee, or wait tables, or collect your garbage, or bag your groceries... or do any of the other bazillion low-paying jobs that directly contribute to the amenities and quality of life in all hip and the vast majority of unhip towns?

Do those people live in miserable, crowded conditions? Do they have to commute hours to their low-wage jobs? That seems to be the current "solution"-- which places a lot of the burden for creating these hip, livable communities on the working poor, as well as needlessly contributing to road congestion, degrading air quality, and being generally inefficient, and unsustainable.

Everyplace needs safe and decent housing options for people at a wide range of incomes. This should not be news to anyone-- but we need to find a way to demonstrate, convincingly, that supporting housing affordable to moderate and low income households provides public benefit and get some (a lot, really) more funding into housing development for those families.
posted by Kpele at 3:24 PM on May 10 [94 favorites]


Here's a really nice piece looking at overall inflation in rental prices in the US since the 1940s (with an initial focus on NYC). It begins by looking at the change in price of renting a luxury apartment overlooking Central Park, by the way, but please don't stop reading there and assume it's a "rich people's problems" piece. Ultimately it builds from examining the increase of rental property to an argument that the CPI might be underestimating overall inflation by failing to consider the rise in housing costs.
posted by yoink at 3:30 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]


Sometimes the "unhip places" are not safe for people with certain colors, ethnic backgrounds or orientations.


Not that that isn't true for some places (and I agree with the post by kpele, on preview, that affordable housing is needed everywhere and the answer isn't just "Go move"), but since moving to the Midwest from the East Coast- some places really don't deserve their "only white Christians live here" reputation, and it's not true that LA, Chicago, and NYC are the only places where you'll find a diverse population. There are a ton of cheap cities in the Midwest-- people upthread have already mentioned Minneapolis and Ann Arbor, you can add Columbus, OH to the list-- which have very diverse communities-- Minneapolis and Columbus have the number 1 and 2 Somali population in the US; the Detroit area has a ton of Middle Eastern folks; and there are other pockets of diversity. I mean, being a Jew here is different than being a Jew in the NYC area, but there are still several synagogues, kosher grocery stores, and it's not like I'm getting the KKK beating down my door. See also this Cracked article.
posted by damayanti at 3:31 PM on May 10 [24 favorites]


Is there evidence that adding new (expensive) units in urban areas actually decreases prices for the rest of us. DC's got a glut of luxury units that developers are desperately trying (and are largely unable) to fill, while the price of everything else continues to creep upward and availability dwindles.

The first article mentions this:
But demand has shown no signs of slackening. And as long as there are plenty of upper-income renters looking for apartments, there is little incentive to build anything other than expensive units. As a result, there are in effect two separate rental markets that are so far apart in price that they have little impact on each other. In one extreme case, a glut of new luxury apartments in Washington has pushed high-end rents down, even while midrange rents continue to rise.
posted by desjardins at 3:31 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


The difference between having a small apartment, or even studio, with its own kitchen and bathroom vs. having to share it with multiple other residents/families is huge. I would even go so far as to say that it's entirely reasonable to expect this of anything offered up as a home.

The apodments seem to me like a compromise between having a studio where you have private bathroom/cooking facilities and living in a house share, where you don't have these things, but have to deal with roommates, typically older and less desirable accommodations, and which will frequently not be located as close to amenities as the apodments.

Not saying I love apodments or anything, but I can see how they could be a pretty good solution for a lot of people. To me, it's a little like dorm living? I personally wouldn't want to have dorm living as a single person in my, say, mid-20s, but I can't get all fired up about how awful it is. If it's totally tolerable at ages 18-21-ish, then it seems like it should be something less than horrifying at somewhat later ages.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:33 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


On the plus side, if you move into an apodment or some other place without decent and reliable kitchen facilities and food storage, you get to have people criticize you for spending too much of your income on premade foods or eating out and telling you that if only you wouldn't do that you'd have enough to rent a decent place and save. So there's that.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:33 PM on May 10 [45 favorites]


There's a new building going up on Mission St., and I saw an ad recently for one of the condos for sale: 600-and-some square feet; $780,000ish; $450/mo HOA fees. That's not "new housing stock" that's going to act as a pressure valve so that rents will be affordable. That's insanity.
posted by rtha at 3:35 PM on May 10 [10 favorites]


I agree that the Chicago entry is misleading as far as the city-as-a-whole goes. I'm currently renting a 1 BR on my own for under $1000/month, and don't know too many people paying 800 for a roomshare, for sure. However:

Chicago is super affordable

Not really, according to recent statistics. Our rent-as-percentage-of-income has jumped an INSANE amount since I moved here a decade ago:

"From 2000 to 2010, the median monthly gross rent in Chicago went from $780 to $916, a jump of over 17 percent, according to the Chicago Rehab Network.

More important, the number of renters in the city paying more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs jumped 32.5 percent. Those numbers skyrocketed at higher rent levels, with the percentage of those paying 30 percent or more within the $1000 to $1500 range leaping 115.6 percent during the decade."

Yes, there are definitely neighborhoods where this is more true than in others. And if you wanted to say, "Well people don't have to live in those neighborhoods," you would be partly justified. HOWEVER: the areas of greatest rent increases parallel the availability of reliable mass transit pretty fucking exactly. Those least able to afford either a car Or a massively long commute (which is much less tenable if you have multiple jobs or a late shift ending after the buses shut down) are the same people who can't afford the train-proximate rents.

Chicago isn't NYC or SF but we have a real housing problem on our hands, and we can't claim anymore to be the cheap and easy haven we were in the late 90s.
posted by like_a_friend at 3:37 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


There you go thinking housing is for people to live in instead of for people to invest money in.
posted by TimTypeZed at 3:39 PM on May 10 [39 favorites]


All the CHUDs I know have to share apartments with three other CHUDs.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:43 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


I strongly suspect the causality goes the other way; hedge funds invested because they saw the writing on the wall on rent increases.

Is there any evidence to support these crazy increases in rental prices having anything to do with market fundamentals? Maybe in San Francisco, but I'm not even sure I buy it there. What we do know for sure is that there's a ridiculous amount of capital out there seeking return in a historically low interest environment which is creating all sorts of bubbles (commodities, tech stocks (again), real estate (again)). A lot of it also seems happy to take a short term loss to wait for a sucker who is willing to pay the prices demanded. I've seen this a lot recently in my own neighbourhood, where a commercial landlord will drastically increase rent on a long time tenant (like 10x), the business of course then closes, and the building sits empty for months. Same thing with all the empty "luxury condos".
posted by junco at 3:43 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


This is what happens as cities become attractive places to work and to live, but zoning laws and boards enforce low density and prevent housing supply from meeting demand. (To get the effect, it also helps for jobs in the city to substantially outnumber housing units.)
posted by parudox at 3:49 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


Or when the jobs are 30 miles out of the city and the places where the jobs are aren't exactly leaping forward to increase housing and other infrastructure.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


Here's a short video about Seattleites living in apodments. It reminds me a lot of living in an RV; I became super mindful about what I owned and very careful about how I store things. I have to say that the RV wins this battle; if you don't like your neighbors, you just move.
posted by desjardins at 3:54 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


All the smug comments from people in flyover country (hey if you're going to be an asshole so am I) are hilarious. My industry exists in 4 cities and that's pretty much it. It's great you paid $20,000 for a house on a babbling brook where the trout are as long as your arm, but that doesn't pay my bills. And unfortunately I lack a time machine to go back to 18 year old me and make an entirely different series of life choices while lacking foreknowledge of the economy to come. When I was in school it was "Just get a degree, it doesn't matter what in."

And for that matter, I actually worked at a company in flyover country in my field trying to get started. The cost of living was insanely low. We had a 2 bedroom apartment so big we literally had no idea what to do with the extra space. And you know what? It failed because none of the really talented people in our field wanted to live there. We couldn't hire ANYONE because better to live with 5 other dudes in San Francisco than live in a palace in Bumfuck Nowhere.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:57 PM on May 10 [70 favorites]


Is there any evidence to support these crazy increases in rental prices having anything to do with market fundamentals?

What does it mean to speak about market fundamentals when it comes to rental prices? It's pure supply and demand. If people are willing to rent at these super high prices they're willing to rent at super high prices.
posted by Justinian at 3:57 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Chicago isn't NYC or SF but we have a real housing problem on our hands, and we can't claim anymore to be the cheap and easy haven we were in the late 90s.

Well, we could claim it. Beer is free. Best motorcycle limosine service in the world. Highest waterfall. Two, count 'em, two genuine monstrosities fighting it out on the weekends.
Life can seem pretty good if you outright lie about it.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


And for that matter, I actually worked at a company in flyover country in my field trying to get started. The cost of living was insanely low.

Well, yeah, it's cheap to live in boring-ass places because they are boring-ass places. It's expensive to live in cool places because they are cool places.
posted by Justinian at 3:58 PM on May 10


Would it be a violation of the MeFi rules for me to mention that there's a studio opening up in my house in Oakland on June 1st for what is probably a below market rent at exactly the number used in this article for comparison?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 4:00 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


>Is there evidence that adding new (expensive) units in urban areas actually decreases prices for the rest of us?

Well, There's a specific term for this from the urbanism policy folk, but I forget - the notion is basically that today's fancy condo is tomorrow's mid to low income housing, as the stock ages and the décor and location grow out of fashion. In Toronto you see this with St Jamestown and in another generation or two Cityplace.

Those are two rather negative examples - housing built with suburban values yield crappy urban living - but the gist of "more housing" isn't centered solely around deluxe apartments.

The idea is that it's too damned hard to get building permits - be it dealing with height restriction laws, or mandatory parking minimums, or any other host of regulations (ofc, some quite necessary) - and as a result high-margin apartments end up being the only housing developers are incentivized to build.

Make it easier to build and make it profitable to build housing for low to middle income people and… well, the one and only thing markets are good at is allocating scarce resources. The problem is "land where it is profitable to build middle income housing" is exceedingly scarce.
posted by pmv at 4:03 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


Huh. Smedleyman, when I lived in Chicagoland, we were paid to drink beer. Doesn't sound so great now, does it?

What we do know for sure is that there's a ridiculous amount of capital out there seeking return in a historically low interest environment which is creating all sorts of bubbles

There probably is a lot of this, although everything I've read is that the hedge fund boom noted by clockzero's link through last year has really slowed down. It was more a matter of parking that money, anyway. But seriously I would like to see this analyzed a la Piketty as far as what the whole r > g problem means for the availability/affordability of necessities like housing. I speak as a landlord who has experience renting. What I can charge for my units in this city, and this neighborhood of this city, would seem ridiculously cheap by the anecdata above, but what I need to charge seems a lot higher than the potential tenant market that I face can really, truly afford.
posted by dhartung at 4:05 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Suggesting that people just pull up stakes whenever rent is high also disregards that economically struggling folks often rely heavily on formal and informal support networks that are entirely location-dependent. Is the cheap BFE rent cheap enough that it makes up for not having grandparents around for child care? Does it make up for no longer having access to specialists for your child's learning disability?

Hell, one thing that keeps me from moving to a cheaper neighborhood in my own city is that my nearby friends and I partly keep ourselves afloat by sharing CSA boxes and potlucking, bartering pet-sitting and bike repairs and "that one dude who has a car that lets us all go to Costco sometimes."

I mean yes, I'm really lucky that my tradeoff is just community vs. cost, and not something more dire, like daycare, but I think as a whole people tend to agree that community is a net good--until someone complains about the rent and then it's all, "Well, if you aren't willing to leave everyone you know and love behind, you really are just making bad life choices."

Two, count 'em, two genuine monstrosities fighting it out on the weekends.

Well we did just have our Cubs-Sox series, it's true.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:08 PM on May 10 [50 favorites]


A few days ago, there was a series in the Globe about the sorry-ass state of student apartments in Boston: dangerous overcrowding, code violations, and shady landlords, and the apartments aren't even that cheap. But students still live in them because they're close to campus and cheaper than living in the dorms. I can easily see apodments following a similar path.

With urban apartments, not only do you pay much more, you often get much less. Last time my husband and I went looking for apartments, we saw places without ovens, with absolute-bare-minimum-height ceilings (seven feet! Have you ever lived in a house where you could touch the ceiling while standing flat-footed?), a "one-bedroom" that was in reality a studio with a crummy partition, and so on. These weren't in Boston proper, but in okay-but-not-fantastic neighborhoods in nearby Somerville. None of them were under $1400. In the end we found somewhere in a nice location without any major problems, but it took a lot of looking and flexibility and a good bit of luck. I shudder at the thought of moving again, because I know we'll have to sacrifice some combination of location, space, and money. Heading out to the boonies may eventually end up being our only choice.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:10 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


the hedge fund boom noted by clockzero's link through last year has really slowed down.

I don't think it's necessarily Wall St. hedge funds here (I thought that most of their activity was in detached housing anyway); it seems to be similar conditions playing out in similar ways on a local scale, mostly due to the fact that (as you and pmv point out) we (culturally) have decided that building new housing should by and large be the domain of private developers, and that they're entitled to a particular level of profit for doing so, and that this level of profit isn't possible anymore except by building for the "luxury" market (but instead of this being primarily due to demand coupled with too much regulation /NIMBYism, I would argue that is due to a speculative bubble and lack of regulation. If anybody has any actual data on in-migration vs. housing starts over the last half-century I would be very happy to see it.)

It's pure supply and demand. If people are willing to rent at these super high prices they're willing to rent at super high prices...it's cheap to live in boring-ass places because they are boring-ass places. It's expensive to live in cool places because they are cool places.

Thanks for taking the time to explain the housing market fully.
posted by junco at 4:18 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


The gap between wages and housing costs is ominous. It actually scares me. What are people going to do? Build a Kowloon Walled City in every town?
posted by thelonius at 4:19 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


Very few people HAVE to live in a major city because that's the only place where they can make a living. This is not true across the board. And I think the number of people that applies to will be continually shrinking. I really think rising living costs are going to make a micro-urban trend very significant over the coming decades. There are going to be new, tiny little hubs of activity and culture all over the map, spread out rather than being so narrowly concentrated. And we're going to be heading increasingly towards remote working arrangements.
posted by naju at 4:19 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


And yet the third largest country in the world by land area charges for housing as though there isn't enough space to go around.

Wait until you see the housing prices in the second-largest country in the world by land area.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:19 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


Huh. Smedleyman, when I lived in Chicagoland, we were paid to drink beer.

That is actually true for me.

Career choice, people!
posted by shakespeherian at 4:20 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


Whenever this article gets written the conversation always centers on single people. As a dude with a now 3 person family in NYC, lemme tell ya, the situation for a single me is like 1/15th the nightmare of contemplating being middle class in this city. It's like we were in prison and a door opened I didn't even know was there and behind it was a smaller, dingier prison full of traffic jams and sad daycare center bathrooms with roach traps in the corners.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:23 PM on May 10 [38 favorites]


Thanks for taking the time to explain the housing market fully.

I wasn't attempting to explain the market fully, I was asking what exactly the person I was replying to meant by "market fundamentals" in this context.
posted by Justinian at 4:24 PM on May 10


I really have to applaud Santa Monica for their aggressive affordable housing policies. In addition to the limited Federal HUD/Section 8 housing for seniors and the disabled, they work closely with a non-profit called Community Corp, which purchases older stock and builds new buildings, all dedicated to truly* affordable housing. Unlike the a-POD-ments, the new buildings are geared towards families so you're not just catering to young Silicon Beach singles and you avoid the problem SF is facing now.

The new buildings are LEED-certified, and the affordable housing is spread out all over the city, not just in a "bad" part of town. Considering the average rent in SM is about $2400/mo, without these programs the whole city would be shut out to most people. Also, people who work in the city are given priority, which means you don't have as much of the "service class" that can't afford to live where they work. It's not perfect by any means, but I think it's a fascinating case-study that could be adopted all over the country.

(As you would imagine, not everyone likes the idea of having The Poors co-mingling with them. The comments (hidden) here are typical.)

*Not the kind where developers promise to offer one or two units at slightly below market, although that exists, too.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:28 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


"My industry exists in 4 cities and that's pretty much it."

Just out of curiosity what industry is that? In this day and age where any place with wi-fi can be an office it's hard to imagine a business that can only exist in 4 places.
posted by MikeMc at 4:28 PM on May 10


In this day and age where any place with wi-fi can be an office it's hard to imagine a business that can only exist in 4 places.

I think there is a difference between where it exists, and where it is possible to exist. Technically, one could do public policy on a federal level anywhere, but the jobs are concentrated around DC.
posted by bperk at 4:34 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


Let me rephrase my last post. Is it a case where to really get anywhere you need to be in an industry "hub"? I mean you can make movies anywhere but if you want be "in the movie business" you should be in L.A..
posted by MikeMc at 4:35 PM on May 10


In this day and age where any place with wi-fi can be an office it's hard to imagine a business that can only exist in 4 places.

If the place that has your job doesn't want you to work remotely 100% of the time, they don't want you to work remotely 100% of the time. A ton of places and business types are like this. Working from [cheap city] for place in [expensive city] is not a real option for most people.

Guy I know and his partner just moved to Sacramento, which is a lot less expensive to live in than SF. But the dude's work wasn't as okay as they thought with him working remotely five days a week, so now part of the money they're saving is going to whatever it's costing Dan to "live" in the city a few days a week and then go home to Sacto on the weekends.

On preview:Is it a case where to really get anywhere you need to be in an industry "hub"? Yeah, it is, if the workplace says it is. I know that sounds dumb, but in my experience, that's mostly how it works, still.
posted by rtha at 4:38 PM on May 10 [15 favorites]


As a single, low-income, tight-with-money, now-aging person, I'd love an apodment. For a couple summers in my early 40s I moved into a university residence where I had a small private room with a bed and a desk, a bathroom shared with one other person, and a kitchen and living area shared with three others. It was great, had my privacy but still met others, including a physics professor from Brazil who became a good friend.

My brother is being sent by his company back to Fort McMurray. This time he's going to stay in "the camps". I always thought the camps meant sleeping in old bunkhouses with seven other oil workers, but my sister-in-law showed me the setup. Pre-fab places terribly ugly from the outside (it is Fort McMurray), but when I saw the small private rooms with common areas I immediately said, "That's exactly the kind of place I want to live. Wish they'd build something like that in a big city." Guess retirement homes are like that too, but they don't go cheap.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:40 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


Seattle already faces an infestation of "Apodments." For $750 a month, you, too can have a tiny one-bedroom space with no closets and the chance to share not only a kitchen space but also a bathroom with three other neighboring residents and/or resident families. And the marketing behind them is so cheerful and enthusiastic that it makes me feel violent.

It's more than a little horrible that people will actually buy into this. I mean, I imagine anyone who does this kinda has to because of their economic situations... but it's just horrifying.


The weird thing is that these places co-exist alongside real studio apartments for similar prices. There's one of those buildings right near my apartment building, in a "hip" part of town. It's $850. The studios in my building are like, $775 or something. There seem to always be space in the apodment buildings if you need a place right now, and apartment hunting here can be a pain in the ass that always ends with you being right down to the wire and still not having a place unless you intentionally overlap move in/move out months and start looking a month early(which is, obviously, and economically privileged thing to even be able to do) so i get how people kinda get corralled into renting them... but the prices just seem downright predatory for what you get.

It reminds me of people charging 5x as much for bottled water during a natural disaster or something, i don't know. It seems horribly surreal to me that they exist alongside actual, normal sized apartments(even small ones) with their own amenities for the same price or less.

Oh, and It especially rubs me the wrong way that anyone who had any objection to them being built was painted as some blowhard nimby with no real point besides "I don't like it" very successfully, and the permits got railroaded through.

This is something I've thought a bit about since I've seen the rise of "a-pod-ments" here, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I feel there's something really, really American about the idea of being horrified about the idea of a smaller living space being the norm. On one hand I can understand why people might perceive it as some kind of neo-tenement living, but on the other hand...isn't a lot of the angst about this grounded in the idea that Americans are used to having lots and lots of living space?

Oh piss off. There's a certain point at which saying "the boot is stepping on my head!" isn't just princessy and entitled. No one moving into these, unless they're fresh out of college and used to live with their parents, used to live in some mcmansion. A lot of people were forced out of cheap shared houses or small apartments into these places by rent increases, and expecting to have your own bathroom and kitchen really doesn't strike me as unreasonable.

Sorry if i sound a little bitter, but i've had this exact discussion with people before who were essentially going "In lots of places like cities in china people live in tiny amounts of space like this, are you just to american and entitled to deal with it?".

The fact of the matter is, $750(or even 850, or more at some of the places) should get you more than a room your bed barely fits in with a mini fridge. There's quite a few people for whom that's a huge portion of their income. Something is very clearly totally fucked if you can work a full time minimum wage job and barely afford a place that doesn't even have it's own fucking toilet.


Another thing to consider here, and another reason i really hate these places is that they hit people the hardest who don't yet have, or have lost their support network. People who are new to the city, etc. Because far and away the cheapest way to live is to rent a larger place with several people and split it... but then you need friends, or to find random people looking for a roommate on craigslist and be very trusting. But what if you don't like having roommates because of bad experiences, and want to live alone?

As i said, something about it just feels very predatory to me. It's like the worst kind of capitalist free market bullshit. The only thing separating it from a tenement or a flophouse is some set dressing. The concept is all the same.
posted by emptythought at 4:42 PM on May 10 [38 favorites]


I know that San Francisco and the like are too damn expensive, but I have a feeling a lot of these "rules of thumb" are out of date.

First of all, yes, if you make $15 an hour in SF you are going to have a bad time living by yourself. (And honestly? That's 32000 a year. In lots of the country that's a lot of money, but in the Bay Area that's not middle class.) But apartmen-tmates in an urban area are a lot more common. Living by yourself is a much bigger luxury in an expensive city. Even $30/hr I bet most people share the rent.

And then, while going out is more expensive, many of the rest of the things you spend money on are priced the same across the country, or if more expensive aren't as more expensive as rent. So saying you need to only spend x% of your salary no matter what your salary is doesn't really work. If you spend 50% of your salary on rent, but only 30% on everything else, compare that to someone spending 30% on rent, but 50% on everything else. You end up in the same place. (And yes, I know it's not that simple.)

What I'm saying is. San Francisco is too damn expensive. The whole Bay Area is too damn expensive. But trying to make it a simple rule of thumb like this doesn't really work.
posted by aspo at 4:45 PM on May 10


Here's a short video about Seattleites living in apodments. It reminds me a lot of living in an RV; I became super mindful about what I owned and very careful about how I store things. I have to say that the RV wins this battle; if you don't like your neighbors, you just move.

Yeah, I don't like the apodments because living in one would be all well and good until the dangerous creep moves in on your floor. It seems like it's going to start out full of students, a couple of dangerous-seeming creeps move in, the students decide that maybe an hour bus commute doesn't sound so bad compared to the scary neighbor lurking outside their shared bathroom, and the apodment becomes an increasingly-run-down hive of horror.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:46 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


I live in an un-hip, small pond (Peoria) and I looooooooove it. It's much easier to be a big fish, take on leadership roles, influence local policy, etc. I can walk or bike to everything and my mortgage is about $500/month. But it is a limited job market and you do have to like living in a small city. I feel like I meet more renaissance types than narrowly-focused deep divers here; it's a good place to use many skills in one job role, but it's much harder to do a narrow, specific, focused job. I think people DO rule out small ponds too hastily, but they're definitely not for everybody.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:48 PM on May 10 [18 favorites]


There's that, but the first thing I thought of is that more people = more noise.
posted by desjardins at 4:49 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


There's that, but the first thing I thought of is that more people = more noise.

What can I say? I'm a natural born pessimist!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:01 PM on May 10


but I think as a whole people tend to agree that community is a net good--until someone complains about the rent and then it's all, "Well, if you aren't willing to leave everyone you know and love behind, you really are just making bad life choices.

like_a_friend, I cannot favorite this hard enough.

The things that keep me in my neighborhood are not fungible--well, I suppose some of them are (restaurants, weather, transit)--but my parents are in their 70's and if I'm not here, who is? My entire immediate family is within arm's reach in an emergency--having been in emergencies when that was not the case, I will not willingly be in that position again.

Everyone structures their lives differently. It's not just that expecting the people who are being priced out of many parts of the US to just move is not a solution; it's not even accepting that there is a problem. yoink's link about housing prices illustrates that there is a problem. Although the linked article focuses on NYC, the paper it's discussing does not.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:06 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


I'm in flyover country and I have come to the point where I absolutely agree that it's a complete travesty when people think it's okay for real estate prices to rise to the point where teachers and secretaries and janitors and grocery store cashiers cannot afford to live in the cities they work in. Now, if you're a software developer and your problem is that you can't really make a nice living in SF, well, yes, you should look elsewhere, there are options. But SF and NYC still need working-class people to operate, just like everywhere else, so there needs to be housing for those people. I'm still not sure I'm sympathetic to those people who really do have choices, but not everybody has choices.

I would dearly love to go to Chicago, where my best friend is, but after her recent degree of fretting over trying to find a place they could afford on her husband's healthy income that felt "safe", I felt a lot better about the Cleveland area.
posted by Sequence at 5:09 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


Is there any evidence to support these crazy increases in rental prices having anything to do with market fundamentals?

In Seattle it was discovered that the general lack of resistance to super-inflated rents stems from the fact that most of the cattle
moving there to work in the South Lake Union Slave Pens are used to paying exorbitant amounts for housing - $1350 for a window,
a kitchen and a bathroom on a bus line seems like a pretty good deal.

I've seen dank 300 sq ft 'one bedroom' apartments that face an alley list for $900 with no shortage of applicants.

So the appearance of 'apodments'; the fact they're legal and the number of folk who think they're a good idea doesn't surprise me -
it's a blood-sucking, last-drop-of-sweat-wringing scheme that's totally apropos for Seattle's happy-talk zombie political milieu.
Like Raymond Chandler's Bay City, law is where you buy it in Seattle.

Right now a $15 minimum wage is the hot topic. I'm more in favor rent control - because what's a few more dollars in your pay envelope
when the swindlers can use "inflation" the same way the police use "resisting arrest"?
posted by Pudhoho at 5:10 PM on May 10 [11 favorites]


The less popular neighborhoods of New York are terribly unsafe, what with all the dragons and volcanoes and torch- and pitchfork-wielding peasantfolk and whatever else it is that will keep people with too much money away from here.

I used to tout the benefits of my neighorhood, but now I'm with griphus. The dragons are really out of control.
posted by corb at 5:11 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


Rental shopping is the worst*. We just signed for a rental house out in the 'burbs of NJ, and it was still expensive. Until my husband gets a job (in the works!), we basically can't really afford to live anywhere. At least renting a house from a person is a little more laid-back then renting in an NYC apartment building. They let us run our own credit report, and pay for the deposits with personal checks. I still feel like I got away with something on that last one.

*Though I've never attempted to buy, so maybe that's worse.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:18 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Did you train to work in fashion design? Then you have to live in NYC. Television? NYC or LA. Want to work in the federal government? Welcome to DC. Want to work for internet startups? SF or NYC.

While I take your point, I think you're still inside the box, or limiting your views of what constitutes a decent job in a given industry. Fashion design? Television? Federal Government? Internet startups? Plenty of geographical diversity in all of them. Unless you're a real superstar out of the gate (God knows I never was), you can build up a resume faster as a large fish in a small pond than vice versa. Do well enough and the big city folk will woo you. If not, you're still ahead of the game financially.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:18 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


New York City also has that wizard problem.
posted by Spiced Out Calvin Coolidge at 5:19 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I don't like the apodments because living in one would be all well and good until the dangerous creep moves in on your floor. It seems like it's going to start out full of students, a couple of dangerous-seeming creeps move in, the students decide that maybe an hour bus commute doesn't sound so bad compared to the scary neighbor lurking outside their shared bathroom, and the apodment becomes an increasingly-run-down hive of horror.

I lived in an SRO building, before the apodments were built, that went exactly like this actually.

before i lived there it had run a complete cycle on this and filled up with rapists who lived there because it was easy to get into and not too close to a school/etc, drug addicts, dealers, and generally criminals and creepers. The owners hired a new manager and went hardline on evicting essentially everyone and fixed the place up.

Pretty much exactly what you just described slowly happened. It went from being full of punks/"hipsters"/artists and generally harmless weirdos to slowly filling up with more creeps, dangerous mentally ill people, and all kinds of other people who just caused issues. And the normal, younger people slowly moved out over the space of a couple years until the place was fucking scary. I slept with a chunk of steel rod with a bunch of random stuff welded onto it(me and my friend christened it the "Kill-death-o-mat") and almost had to use it a few times. The managers were responsive about getting rid of scary people, sort of, but then new people would show up who met the requirements, and were capable of acting normal long enough to fill out the paperwork and talk to the manager for a little while... So yea, the place slowly filled up with people who were the bad upsetting kind of weird, or just blatantly creepy/dangerous.

And yea, the shared bathrooms were always some level of rapey. It varied from "kinda sorta" to "really" depending on the time period.

Another downside of this concept is theft. So it's 3am, you're drunk, and you have to piss. Are you really going to lock your door while you stumble into the bathroom rubbing your eyes? Situations that just wouldn't exist in a normal apartment are created by this setup, and are kind of inherently problematic even if you can be an emotionless robot and go "well, people just need to get better at locking their doors" or something. There's just more failure modes as far as security of your possessions go than their would be in a place that you didn't have to enter and leave just to cook something, or take a piss.

I don't know, i realize i might be biased. But i also actually did live in a place like this and a lot of things about it fucking sucked really really hard. It also just didn't feel like actually having your own place in a lot of ways, since you didn't have much room at all and didn't even have a damn closet. Everyone i knew who lived there either owned essentially nothing, or their place looked like a mad scientists workshop or the back room of a thrift store simply because everything had to be piled up to even fit.
posted by emptythought at 5:21 PM on May 10 [33 favorites]


So it's 3am, you're drunk, and you have to piss. Are you really going to lock your door while you stumble into the bathroom rubbing your eyes?

Oh Jesus, just thinking about the number of times I use a bathroom each day and having to go into a public space (and perhaps wait for someone else to finish) ...nooooooope.
posted by psoas at 5:34 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


The places to be are the semi-hidden semi-hip town meccas - midwest or "flyover state" college towns maybe, small but interesting tech/industry hubs, "micro-urban" places where there's a small set of creatives and hipsters and academics and geeks and plenty of cool things to do, but where you could rent a decent-sized 1 or 2 bedroom for super cheap, and seemingly everyone owns a house with a yard regardless of status.

I've been fortunate to live in two places like this for the last decade or so (longer if you count the college town I went to for graduate school before that). Wages aren't as high as SF or NY, but housing is cheap enough that a school teacher or police officer can choose between buying or renting on one income, and there are restaurants and breweries that are regionally and/or nationally known and that you can easily afford to go to on a median income.

There are downsides -- you'll never have the culture or high-end jobs of the biggest metro areas, but for me it's been balanced by the high quality of living, easy commutes, and low crime.

There's no way that "dude, just move to a semi-hip place away from the coast" is useful advice for most people and does nothing to solve the structural issues that are forcing teachers and coffee shop workers in many cities to commute for hours and live in unsafe places, but it's an easy to overlook option that can work out nicely for people in specific situations.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:34 PM on May 10 [10 favorites]


Is this when I correctly guess that Colorado is, once again, the best of all possible worlds?
posted by psoas at 5:39 PM on May 10


Is this when I correctly guess that Colorado is, once again, the best of all possible worlds?

Having just spent a week in Denver, I gotta ask why folk out there seem so startled at the idea of pedestrians.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:43 PM on May 10 [7 favorites]


Having just spent a week in Denver, I gotta ask why folk out there seem so startled at the idea of pedestrians.

Because horsies!
posted by Pudhoho at 5:54 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


I strongly suspect the causality goes the other way; hedge funds invested because they saw the writing on the wall on rent increases.

That's a good point, it could easily be that causal direction. Of course, it could also be the case that many funds saw that writing on the wall and caused further increases that may not have happened otherwise by buying up lots of property and raising rent because they knew demand was only going to get higher. It could also be some even more complicated causal situation. This is the point where you're supposed to start building a regression model I guess.
posted by clockzero at 6:06 PM on May 10


The exact amount of government action it would take to add 100,000 housing units to San Francisco is zero, or, more exactly, negative: revoke zoning, grant building permits as of right. In nine months all you'd see on the flight path into SFO would be forest of cranes.

I also sincerely hope that the people above who said that rents don't make any sense but instead are the result of supply and demand are kidding.

Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.
posted by MattD at 6:19 PM on May 10


NYC and SF in particular suffer from NIMBYism...

SF, sure. NYC not really. New York's building permit process is actually incredibly streamlined and sensible compared to most parts of the country. There's little or no aesthetic design review process. You don't even need a planning commission hearing to build a tall building.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:21 PM on May 10


Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.

On the one hand, this is sort of a self-refutingly stupid thing to say. On the other hand, wanting to live in a place populated by people who think like that? Does sound a bit masochistic.

Me, I'll just wait until they all move to one of those libertarian floating cities or whatever. Not sure who'll make their lattes then - peasants commuting by raft one supposes- but whoever it is, probably they'll spit in them.
posted by hap_hazard at 6:28 PM on May 10 [15 favorites]


Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.

especially if they were born there - really, what were those little babies thinking?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:31 PM on May 10 [22 favorites]


Those apodments are weird. They're not really smaller than small Japanese apartments (200-300 sq ft), but they are not self-contained. Seems like they could be more efficient and remove the need for some parts to be communalized. Then they'd just be small apartments. (You can get even smaller apartments in some places there [Japan], but my fiancee lived in an apartment smaller than my living room for years and didn't find it too horrible).

[I'm not saying "people should all just have to live in tiny apartments!" or anything, just that it seems like the "not self contained" aspect of those "apodments" is oddly contrived]
posted by wildcrdj at 6:31 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


All you young Brooklynites ready for a good cry? OK, then, here goes: I lived on the 2nd floor of a newly renovated brownstone-type building (700 Fulton Street, between So. Portland and So. Oxford in Ft. Greene) which was a three bedroom (two of them big, proper rooms, and one smallish) plus a spacious combination kitchen/living room. I used to rehearse a 4-piece band there once a week, with no complaints from the neighbors ever! I lived in that apartment from 1988 to 1995. The rent?

$800 a month.

There, there… Can I get you a tissue?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:36 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


I don't know about SF, but down here in San Jose the city is being converted to medium density at a fairly fast pace. That's nice, although the transit infrastructure is seeing only minor improvements at best; commuting will soon be on par with LA levels of horror.

jadepearl:
I am a refugee from California, I like it here.

I grew up in Minneapolis, and I recently gave up my tech job for something that pays waaaay less. I was home for Christmas last year and for the first few days the temperature was mid 30s and I always forget how the city has so much going for it that frankly beats the pants off most cities in the US. I really gave thought to moving back.

Then the temperature dropped to zero, and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

It's still a real option, though.
posted by MillMan at 6:38 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


Goddammit MattD I just can't argue with your logic. All those fucking baristas and janitors and shop clerks should just move to a different state. Our Galtian heroes will stock those motherfucking shelves like the true heroes they are!
posted by wuwei at 6:42 PM on May 10 [26 favorites]


Very few people HAVE to live in a major city because that's the only place where they can make a living. This is not true across the board. And I think the number of people that applies to will be continually shrinking. I really think rising living costs are going to make a micro-urban trend very significant over the coming decades. There are going to be new, tiny little hubs of activity and culture all over the map, spread out rather than being so narrowly concentrated. And we're going to be heading increasingly towards remote working arrangements.


It's going to go in the complete opposite direction. I currently work in a virtual office environment and I am still planning a move to a major city right now.

The days of working in the same place for the same company for more than 5 years are gone. We move from gig to gig, which gives us flexibility, but these gigs are now obtained through being part of a network. You have to be physically present if you aren't totally established.

Young people in my generation starting their careers need to be connected to a network. We can't just strike it out to a remote office job on our own without being known first. Even though I can stay in the small city I went to school with, it'll be much easier for me to get the next job two or five years from now if I'm in town. And that's what we are always concerned about: not the job we have now, but how to get the next job, and our side hustle.

Maybe I'll move to a cheap city 10 years from now. But for now, I just have to tough out the high rents. The remote office benefits people who can't or won't leave the small towns that they are in...but it's not a permanent solution for everything.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:44 PM on May 10 [12 favorites]


Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.

Who is supposed to say, serve you your drinks or your dinner or stock the shelves at the grocery store then? who is supposed to drive the cabs, or the buses, or the subway/lightrail or whatever?

are those people supposed to live in some far off suburb and commute for an hour and half both ways every day?

when people who have normal, keep the cogs of society turning jobs can't afford to live anywhere close to where they work something is deeply broken.

Oh Jesus, just thinking about the number of times I use a bathroom each day and having to go into a public space (and perhaps wait for someone else to finish) ...nooooooope.

To compound it even further: what if you brought someone over after a date, and they're the one who has to go pee?
posted by emptythought at 6:48 PM on May 10 [14 favorites]


Prices for student housing are insane.

I have a kid beginning the 'college application' process; so just for schadenfreude I priced my old college dorm room.

Today, my old dorm room costs MORE (per month of residence) than I'm currently paying for my mortgage. The mortgage on my entire house.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 6:49 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


Oddly enough you can actually do fine for $800-ish in Los Angeles, either renting half of a two bedroom almost anywhere, or getting your own studio in a decent area. The much-mocked spread-out nature of the city, combined with rent control for pre-1978 buildings, means that rents are surprisingly reasonable (though buying can be insane).
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:49 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


The thing about saying "everybody should know to move away" -- besides the really good points people have made upthread about personal networks and safety nets -- is this. I've seen what happens when organizations lose their smart, ambitious young people because the job that looked appealing when they were new graduates gradually rubbed up against the reality of living in New York and not making a lot of money.

If you pay unlivably low salaries for governmental and quasi-governmental jobs that every city needs to get done by somebody, and the bulk of bright young ambitious people -- even if they're idealistic, even if they don't care that much about money -- can't take those jobs, then the organization is poorer for it. And the city is poorer for it. And people who send their kids to public schools, or take their kids to the library, or stand in line for driver's licenses, throw up their hands and they say "Oh, government doesn't work, government is bad, those city employees in the city employees union aren't competent," as if that's some inherent property of local government rather than the thing that happens when you can't pay good people good salaries.
posted by Jeanne at 6:54 PM on May 10 [22 favorites]


Don't want to live in DC? Live in Silver Spring or Wheaton, and commute in. Or live in Rockville. 30-minute commute by public transit, and you can cut the rent cost by hundreds of dollars.

There is sometimes a diminishing return on safety...
posted by datawrangler at 6:56 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


There, there… Can I get you a tissue?

Eh, that was nyc in the 90s for everyone. I had a place on stanton street for $400. I could also purchase a nickel bag of black death less than 20 feet from my front door.
posted by elizardbits at 6:56 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


I could also purchase a nickel bag of black death less than 20 feet from my front door.

This was back when the LES had a lot of 1st-generation supervillain families, I assume
posted by clockzero at 7:01 PM on May 10 [9 favorites]


Goddammit MattD I just can't argue with your logic. All those fucking baristas and janitors and shop clerks should just move to a different state. Our Galtian heroes will stock those motherfucking shelves like the true heroes they are!

Don't forget teachers and people who work in City Hall and maybe even people who drive buses and pick up trash and recycling and work in the hospitals and stuff. They should use their long commutes to improve themselves, obviously!
posted by rtha at 7:06 PM on May 10 [10 favorites]


And if you have to live far away from your job to afford housing, you end up making up for it in transportation costs.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:07 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


Eh, that was nyc in the 90s for everyone.

Yeah, my point wasn't that my situation was especially unique. I was addressing, as I made clear, young Brooklynites. The ones who moved to the borough in more recent times.

I could also purchase a nickel bag of black death less than 20 feet from my front door.

Hey, I will not be one-upped! I had crack vials crunching underfoot on my sidewalk. Crunching. Underfoot. Yo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:07 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Crunching. Underfoot. Yo.

Barefoot, uphill both ways?
posted by Pudhoho at 7:10 PM on May 10 [8 favorites]


was talking to a guy who invests in real estate at work and his observation was that what's really driving the housing boom/crunch in the bay area is money coming in from china. everyone's blaming the googlers in SF/Oakland driving up rents but that's not the whole story. lots of real estate is being taken off the market by people buying apartments/houses and leaving them empty. this is reducing the supply just as demand is picking up and the results are not good for renters.

there are a couple of apartment projects starting up in the temescal area but a couple hundred units ready in 2 years probably does not make a dent in anything.
posted by joeblough at 7:10 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


We tried affordable housing regardless of density; they were called slums and are mostly demolished in the US by now.
posted by michaelh at 7:23 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


If we're gonna talk about Brooklyn and affordability problems, can we please be explicit that we're talking about West Brooklyn and mostly Northwest Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is huge. Yes prices are up all over, but the acute gentrification is not in Sunset Park, not in Flatbush, not in Borough Park or Midwood, all of which are perfectly nice places to live, and not particularly dangerous.

It urks me no end when the press acts as if the only Brooklyn worth talking about extends no further South than Red Hook and no further West than Bushwick. The focus is on less than a quarter of the land area. And don't tell me that's because everybody needs to commute to jobs in Manhattan. There are jobs in Brooklyn. Not as many white collar office jobs for young middle class recent college grads, but Brooklyn even has those, and those are not the only kinds of jobs in the world.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:33 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Brooklyn is huge.

It is indeed. Part of me always kinda wanted to live in Coney Island, because, you know… the poetry of decay and all that. But that is one loooooong-ass subway ride.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:40 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


The exact amount of government action it would take to add 100,000 housing units to San Francisco is zero, or, more exactly, negative

In 2012 San Francisco had 376,924 housing units.

Currently San Francisco's infrastructure is bursting at the seams, and although the city is working on it, that's something that happens slowly. Yes, in California stuff happens slower than it might should, but even if that wasn't the case we are talking 5-10 years minimum for something like adding a new light rail line. Not to mention the billion dollars or so it would take. Oh and where do you plan to add the extra 25% of the population? Tear down existing homes? Great, you've just torn down all the affordable and rent controlled apartments that exist right now. Destroy existing retail and commercial real estate? Because just turning San Francisco into a bunch of homes is going to destroy a lot of what makes it, well, a city. Oh and good luck if there ever is a bust in the city again, do you remember 2001-4 or so (Who am I kidding, I bet you weren't here then) when the housing market tanked and people we renegotiating their rents down? But if you tear all of the city out to build housing units after housing units and they end up empty that's going to be a disaster. Empty housing everywhere? Eek.

It's true, SF needs to grow, and it is. Have you noticed there's cranes every-fucking-where? But a lot of cities grow both in density and in size, and SF doesn't have any outside to move into. The cities near San Francisco need to grow as well, and honestly are a lot less dense and have a lot more room to grow than San Francisco does. But since they are separate counties, there's less political pressure to urbanize.
posted by aspo at 7:53 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


Part of me always kinda wanted to live in Coney Island, because, you know… the poetry of decay and all that. But that is one loooooong-ass subway ride.

[Jonathan Safran Foer reads this, his jaw slowly dropping; he has to get up and go stand by the window, where a cool breeze comes in. suddenly furious, he grabs a magical realist manuscript detailing a fantastical day-long subway ride during which 50 years passes in the real world and hurls the pages out the window. the bodega cashier below is heard to exclaim Oh, it's raining magical crap again]
posted by clockzero at 7:53 PM on May 10 [21 favorites]


> Just out of curiosity what industry is that? In this day and age where any place with wi-fi can be an office it's hard to imagine a business that can only exist in 4 places

Oooh, I've got one. I used to be a freelance factchecker in the magazine industry. That exists in NYC and nowhere else.

You need to be where a lot of magazines are published, because factcheckers come in for only two weeks out of the month and thus need to work at more than one magazine, and you need to actually be in the office to hand pieces of paper from desk to desk.

Other cities have magazines and I presume they have factcheckers, but not enough to consider it a reasonable line of work to get into.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:54 PM on May 10 [5 favorites]


Is the 30% rule of thumb supposed to be after tax or before tax income?
posted by modernnomad at 7:57 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


Also: density. San Francisco has a density of over half of New York City as a whole (and yes a whole lot less than Manhattan). San Francisco is the second densest city in the States. It's hard to get a good sense of how dense it is world wide (there's a lot of small "cities" of like 20k people surrounded by an urban area that have crazy density because they don't need all the infrastructure a real city has) but San Francisco is denser than Amsterdam, Rome, London (!!!), Stockholm, etc etc. I'm sick of the "San Francisco is not a dense city" myth.
posted by aspo at 8:00 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


All this talk of "expanding your career horizons" is total bullshit if the school district is shitty.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:08 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


I've been living in Flatbush for about 4 years now and it's astonishing how much rents have gone up. It sure isn't Williamsburg or anything, but it's not like you can find a studio for $900 if you're just willing to live far out enough. (Last time I looked, I looked in Canarsie. The owner was nonplussed at my unwillingness to live in a basement apartment where the bathroom ceiling was lower than my head.)
posted by Jeanne at 8:16 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


San Francisco doesn't have the electrical, water, and sewer capacity to add that many more housing units in the near term.
posted by humanfont at 8:17 PM on May 10


I didn't read all the comments but affordable housing is my job. HUD uses gross as your 30 percent in calculations. So it's really a bit more than 30 percent of your net income. (Depending on the program for mixed and low income housing HUD calculations for rent take in deductions for things like medical expenses, dependants and disability so it should be taken into account when thinking of your own 30 percent) but no matter what your rent payment has to be 10 percent even if your deductions put you into the negative.

People have said comments like we'll move somewhere else. Many of the people I serve are disabled with mobility issues and are on fixed incomes. (Also with SSI there are asset limits of 2000 total so good luck saving up for a car on a measly 721 a month. Even if a person manages to save 2000 which is pretty impossible they stop the check until the person is under the asset limit). Moving would leave them with less access to medical care , less access to public transportation services and less access to public supports.

For people with jobs, what good is it to move further from an job in an urban area to commute an hour more and pay what you would have paid in rent in gas? Also things like child care subsides may not be as readily available so hitting the 30 percent mark on housing can inadvertently drive up other costs or availability. Or you have family that provides childcare and moving away means suddenly you have to pay. People on low incomes make these decisions all the time.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:30 PM on May 10 [33 favorites]


Oooh, I've got one. I used to be a freelance factchecker in the magazine industry. That exists in NYC and nowhere else.

Me too, I work on photo assignments for magazines. You either have to be where the magazines are (NYC) or you have to be in a city large and interesting enough to produce regular assignments that those publications would cover. I did Brooklyn for a while, but then ironically moved to the bay area because I thought it would be cheaper.

An industry friend of mine from NYC tried moving to a smaller pond (Portland) and quickly changed his mind, even though it was a fairly large, hip city it didn't have enough work to support a community of freelancers.

The days of working in the same place for the same company for more than 5 years are gone. We move from gig to gig, which gives us flexibility, but these gigs are now obtained through being part of a network. You have to be physically present if you aren't totally established.

Young people in my generation starting their careers need to be connected to a network.


This times a million. I don't think about the current job, I think about the next one. People in my industry talk about being "local" as in "I work locally out of San Francisco and LA" meaning they have networks there.

Part of what's happened with this recession is that employers are requiring labor and talent to be more flexible, especially among younger people my age who mostly have massive debt loads. If you look at the distribution of recovery from the recession you see it is concentrated on the coasts, near the cities. Employers are outsourcing things into this gig economy where everyone is a freelancer with no benefits, no stability, and their own overhead to cover and in order to compete for these jobs you have to be physically present. So these talent pools are being centralized in cities, but we're all getting squeezed by an endlessly increasing rent.
posted by bradbane at 8:40 PM on May 10 [14 favorites]


Anecdata: I work for a tech company that has, historically, had a distributed, work-from-home percentage of its staff. That is being phased out: the new gospel is that people collaborate better in the same office. That office is in a predictably coastal city.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:44 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


And crime and gang territory. I may have a affordable housing option for someone. But if i have someone with a previous/current or even perceived gang affiliation moving them into the 'wrong' neighborhood could make it hell.

I have the privilege of being a white female. I live in a minority neighborhood in Chicago with a reputation of being not that good but I'm comfortable. I pay 750 for a 1000 sq. Ft. 2 bedroom apartment. Would I have a kid here? Yes. Do i walk in the neighborhood alone at night ? Yes. Would I send a kid to the local school? Nope. Nope. Nope.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:46 PM on May 10 [3 favorites]


I just searched a couple of sites to see what you can get for $800 a month in my current city (Canberra) or in Sydney, Australia. I found a bunch of parking spaces.
posted by lollusc at 8:59 PM on May 10 [13 favorites]


Anecdata: I work for a tech company that has, historically, had a distributed, work-from-home percentage of its staff. That is being phased out: the new gospel is that people collaborate better in the same office. That office is in a predictably coastal city.

I too am increasingly hearing 'virtual work is not as productive as local work' from the people who make those decisions for companies. The dream of sending everyone home to work didn't last long, at least when it came to 100% virtual work.
posted by winna at 9:00 PM on May 10 [1 favorite]


All this talk about jobs that have to be in one particular city or can and can't be done remotely is one thing. Whether or not virtual work is reasonable there is, again, as noted above, a need for housing across a range of incomes in the city or town because there are lots of jobs that require you to be physically near your work. Regardless of whether remote work is the boon people thought it would be for jobs which can be done remotely, there are lots of jobs that can't be done on your laptop in the living room. And these jobs do not all pay the same wage.

Doctors have to be in the same room with patients; so must day care workers be in the room with children. And lawyers have to be in the courtroom and waiters have to be in the dining room. Plumbers have to be in your kitchen; grocery store clerks have to be in the grocery store; ballerinas have to be in the theatre; and the delivery guy has to come to your door.

They all need to be able to afford to live within a reasonable distance of their job, which requires them to be in the same general physical place. They all deserve--as human beings--to not have to share a hallway bathroom with relative strangers in order to do so. People deserve not to have to spend two hours on the subway or sitting in traffic to get to work in the morning.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:04 PM on May 10 [36 favorites]


sci-fi taught me that automation would usher in utopian leisure. life taught me that when your job goes away, you will be left to die.
posted by bruce at 9:11 PM on May 10 [24 favorites]


Perhaps I've overlooked it but I haven't seen the matter of the decline of home ownership affecting rentals. Quite a number of homes were lost to foreclosure; the people who lost those homes had to go somewhere. Out here in the burbs of Long Island where every single attempt to build apartment housing is met with huge resistance, former homeowners are hard pressed to find rentals in their own community. Not to mention that young people returning home from college can't find rentals here.
posted by etaoin at 9:34 PM on May 10


desjardins: "Here's a short video about Seattleites living in apodments. It reminds me a lot of living in an RV; I became super mindful about what I owned and very careful about how I store things. I have to say that the RV wins this battle; if you don't like your neighbors, you just move."

Okay, new idea: storage container apartments. Don't like your neighbor? Just have crane the move you!
posted by pwnguin at 10:39 PM on May 10 [2 favorites]


Because smaller towns are flush with plum career opportunities in my field of expertise, right?

Here's the deal, tho - if you have a job, and it doesn't let you afford a decent and comfortable place for your family to live, it's not a job. It's a hobby you're making some income from.

If you can pick up and move to a podunk town in the middle of godawful, and be confident you can snag a good paying job within an hour's drive, you have a career. Otherwise, you may want to reconsider exactly what your degree and job experience is actually worth, and look very hard into a lateral career move.

Don't want to do that? Organize or die. The investors and owners running the show almost assuredly are stealing your fair share. Demand it back.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:45 PM on May 10 [6 favorites]


if you have a job, and it doesn't let you afford a decent and comfortable place for your family to live, it's not a job. It's a hobby you're making some income from.

This is so offensive that I'm honestly kinda shocked that someone said it. Quick! Tell all the food service and WalMart and etc workers that they should quit their stupid hobbies and go find a real job! Many of those people are, in fact, trying awfully hard to do things like pass laws raising minimum wage, but there's a finite amount that people who are, generally speaking, already a lot more likely to be marginalized/disadvantaged than your average Joe, are able to do to affect that sort of change.
posted by MeghanC at 11:02 PM on May 10 [46 favorites]


Yeah, the longer this conversation goes on the more it sounds like income inequality is at least half the problem.
posted by tychotesla at 11:07 PM on May 10 [4 favorites]


Don't like your neighbor? Just have crane the move you!

Or maybe the neighbors didn't like you.

Here's the deal, tho - if you have a job, and it doesn't let you afford a decent and comfortable place for your family to live, it's not a job. It's a hobby you're making some income from.

You're posting as if you have no concept of the history of housing exclusion. Don't want poor people living nearby? Just don't build any housing for them! Problem solved! Your maids and Mickey D workers will have two-hour bus rides and long walks along streets with no sidewalks, but that's their problem. It would be an imposition on your quality of life to let them live someplace other than the urban hellhole you imagine they personally embody. It's especially cruel because the jobs move out to places where nobody can get to them and those who are left behind are then easily blamed for their having been left behind, because our society has shown them they have no value and their lack of value is their own damn fault.

If society is not providing enough housing for all the people who are part of that fucking society, including the people who make that society work day in and day out, then that fucking society has failed.
posted by dhartung at 11:08 PM on May 10 [27 favorites]


San Francisco added around 5-6000 new housing units between 2010 and 2013, while its population increased by around 30,000.

Isn't this the root of the problem? There's simply not enough housing to go around. More needs to be built.
posted by dave99 at 11:16 PM on May 10


Organize or die.

I am sick of hearing this. I thoroughly understand the reasoning behind it, but it's tossed around very glibly, and has more than a bit of victim-blaming about it. Established unions are doing so well in North America, after all.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 11:17 PM on May 10 [14 favorites]


Articles and discussions like this are a good part of the reason I decided to stay in Japan. It's not that housing here is all that wonderful, just that the sheer cost of moving home, getting set up, and hopefully finding work has always seemed overwhelming. It doesn't help that the older you get, the harder it is to start over with no applicable work history. I've known too many people who've left, only to come back and start again from the bottom because they couldn't get any meaningful work back home.

Toss in the impossibility of housing, and I'm pretty glad I've stayed. Here in Japan, we bought a house with something of a yard, and enough space to get started on launching a business. Had we moved back home, I seriously doubt I'd have ever been able to find a job good enough to do anything like that.

Then again, something like 10-13% of housing Japan wide is vacant. Declining population and all. That's its own ball of terrifying.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:20 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


And "declining population" will also describe most of the western world in a decade or so.

I'm interviewing stockbrokers and money managers at the moment, trying to find someone who would be a good choice to manage some of my elderly mother's money (sold the house, plus Dad's estate) and the very nice fellow I talked to a couple of days ago was just in love with REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts). As many have said, it's not just the market/supply and demand that's setting rents: a company's stock price literally rises and falls on its profit margin. The higher the rents, the greater the profit, even if the unit is un-rentable or turns over every 6 months.

This lovely man was convinced that this investment was stable as a rock -- but of course the concept assumes that the profits increase steadily yearly, meaning that the rents do too. Wages are stagnant. How high (from here) do rents have to go before they become not just painful but impossible? And what happens then? Exactly the same thing will happen to REITS as happened to Mortgage backed securities, and for exactly the same reason.

And yes, as everyone else has pointed out: cities need workers, and people with money to support local shops and services, or they die. And when teachers and cops and firefighters can't afford to live in a city, it's doomed.
posted by jrochest at 1:20 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]


What struck me as odd about the apodments was the communal kitchen was bullshit. My god, if everybody on my floor is paying rent on a communal kitchen, I want it to be a wonderland, not the sad-ass pil of crap you see at the back of a typical breakroom. A shitty stove and a shitty sink and a tiny slab of counter between the two. I can do better back in my kitchenette with a hotplate and a portable convection oven, why are we sharing a kitchen again?

That said, having my own bathroom would have been a luxury from ages 19-26. Yes, please.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:08 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]


..living in a snowpocalyptic hellscape for half the year and being devoured by unnaturally-large bloodsucking insects and humidity for most of the rest, don't forget those parts.

Stop it, you're making this transplanted Michigander homesick.

Meanwhile, Austin TX, while being relatively affordable, and having jobs and culture, is also mind-meltingly hot/humid from roughly next week through early October every year, and is also technically part of Texas, so all y'all should stay away from here, too.

I'm gonna go cry into my Pearl Snap now and daydream about shoveling snow. Also, I think you meant last week or the week before.
posted by LiteOpera at 3:21 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]


From my regular viewing of TCM, I believe that variations of shared accommodation for single people used to be a part of the urban fabric. I see these old movies where the nice young couple arrives at the Guest House, and holding court downstairs in the living and dining rooms are aging spinsters on annuities and boastful old colonels, been living there forever. I have letters from ancestors, one of which was a long-time steadily-employed engineer on the railroad, seemed to split his time between Thunder Bay and Vancouver with the occasional trip down to California to see brothers, wherever he was his address was always the YMCA.

Not everyone goes to school, finds the career job and purchases the condo, or gets married and buys the house. Lives and careers have setbacks, job loss, relationship breakups. Some people just don't settle, for whatever reasons. I've heard that poverty, depression and social isolation are major problems for single people between 45 and 60. I don't know that those people are well-served living alone in substandard, overpriced and perhaps difficult to find and lease apartment housing. We accept communal arrangements for students (university dorms) and for seniors (retirement homes). But it seems that for anyone in between the response is "OMG, Creepers!"

I still think something like an apodment can meet the needs of plenty of people who for now pay too much for apartments, or live in much dodgier and perhaps illegal rooming houses, or who remain living with relatives. Depends on the cost, if there is significant savings over apartments, and if the management is strong enough keep such an arrangement safe and secure, but it shouldn't be rejected because it doesn't immediately meet our notion of proper living.
posted by TimTypeZed at 4:51 AM on May 11 [7 favorites]


Here's the deal, tho - if you have a job, and it doesn't let you afford a decent and comfortable place for your family to live, it's not a job. It's a hobby you're making some income from.

Mitt Romney? When did you join Metafilter?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:53 AM on May 11 [9 favorites]


I just searched a couple of sites to see what you can get for $800 a month in my current city (Canberra) or in Sydney, Australia. I found a bunch of parking spaces.

Not sure how people do it.

In 2000 we paid $760 a month for a three-bedroom ensuite townhouse with a DLUG and a courtyard in a spacious complex in a nice suburb in Canberra.

The landlord tried to jack up the rent to $230 a week - so $920 a month. We laughed, and bought a not-quite-as-nice-but-it's-ours place for $220K. (A year earlier it would've been $140K, but this was the start of the Aussie housing boom. Oh, how we grizzled.) Three beds, ensuite, carport, ducted gas heating, a view - and a massive quarter-acre block smack bang in a nicer suburb. It was built during the 80s depression, so it's brick veneer, had plenty of arches, tasteful brown tiles in the bathroom, and is small by Aussie standards (112m^2), but it's cozy.

I just checked allhomes, and a place substantially identical to ours in size and layout, but with a smaller block, no aircon, no DLUG (we built one), no instantaneous gas or gas appliances, no ensuite - was just rented out for $500 a week a block away from us. $2,000 a month. Un-fucking-believable.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:59 AM on May 11


$832 for one bedroom right next to the University of Illinois at Chicago, sharing a fully furnished four-bedroom apartment with three girls.

Hiyoooo!
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:32 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Guys, when we achieve our objectivist utopia, we won't need garbage men because everyone will just burn their own trash in their own apartments.

And when they burn down the building and there are no firemen because they've been priced out of local housing, well, that's just the cost of doing business in utopia.

True story, the people two doors down from me burned down half their house by burning yard waste WHICH IS PICKED UP FREE BY THE CITY specifically so people don't burn it but apparently dragging a bin to the curb is too much work. Objectivist utopia is going to go great!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:34 AM on May 11 [16 favorites]


I've spent my life half in California and half in the Midwest and I will never understand either Californians' provincial attitudes toward the Midwest, or Midwesterners' delight in the housing pain experienced by people on the coasts.

My husband works in a field that has its highest concentration of jobs in California. We went to grad school there, and moved to Wisconsin for a postdoc, and then it took him probably five times longer to find a permanent job than our friends who had stayed in California for postgraduate work. I love it here, and am thrilled we're staying, but I think it's naive to imagine that the career opportunities are equivalent to major cities.
posted by gerstle at 5:51 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


I believe that variations of shared accommodation for single people used to be a part of the urban fabric.

This is true, and the loss of those options causes a number of problems. There used to be boarding houses, SROs, tenements, and so on. Not all of them were particularly nice, but getting rid of an option without replacing it with something else leaves people choosing from often less great options.

As someone who has been doing long-term travel for work, I'd kill for a well-maintained and well-managed apodment-style option -- I don't need a full apartment for myself, but motels suck and I have no interest at this point in my life in renting a room in a rickety old house with three randoms and a weird guy in the basement with a drumset and a meth habit, which pretty much covers the available options here.

We do need more rental options at various price and amenity points. That will mean changing zoning rules to allow things that aren't single-family houses and traditional apartments, and it will mean being careful to not inadvertently allow the recreation of things like tenements with truly unacceptable living conditions.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:39 AM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Why is this such a new and explosive thing? After all, we have been inundated of late with the growing income gaps, the salary inequalities, etc.
And if this is happening in the U.S., well, it is also taking placerz in other cities outside our nation, ex--Venice
posted by Postroad at 7:03 AM on May 11


Don't want to live in DC? Live in Silver Spring or Wheaton, and commute in. Or live in Rockville. 30-minute commute by public transit, and you can cut the rent cost by hundreds of dollars.

Nope.

I've lived in DC for 10 years. When I first moved here for grad school, a classmate and I sublet a place in Rockville for the first month while we got our bearings, and I can attest it takes nearly an hour each way just to get to/from Dupont Circle, not to mention that as far as your network in the District is concerned you've moved Away.

Hell, I live in-town (in a fun, dynamic neighborhood) only about two miles from work and my commute is already half an hour--and I live three blocks from one Metro station and work a block away from another. Biking is slightly faster, if I'm feeling brave and the weather cooperates.
posted by psoas at 7:07 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]


I've long been intrigued by the idea of apodments but the comments here are giving me pause. One would think that it should be possible to make a decent apodment with ensuite bathroom with shared kitchen(s) and living room(s). Indeed, that's what I had at university, and there are some people in London who made their own co-op version in a house.

I imagine the problem is that while developers could do that, they'd make more money by cutting out the ensuite bathroom, nice living room, etc; and if you didn't develop the apartments from scratch, then the options for using existing housing are quite limited.
posted by adrianhon at 7:53 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I imagine the problem is that while developers could do that, they'd make more money by cutting out the ensuite bathroom, nice living room, etc; and if you didn't develop the apartments from scratch, then the options for using existing housing are quite limited.

It's not necessarily that the developer makes any more money, but with ensuite bathroom and better kitchens and living rooms than individual apartments might have, you're not really providing a significantly less costly alternative to build than individual apartments and thus it won't be offered at the more "affordable" price point.
posted by rutabega at 8:05 AM on May 11


Can't comment on the other cities in this article, but the "$832 for one bedroom right next to the University of Illinois at Chicago, sharing a fully furnished four-bedroom apartment with three girls" is ridiculous. There are so many affordable neighborhoods in Chicago, even within short distance of light rail, it's evident to me that the person who put this article together did the minimal work required to string together a scary list of pathetic housing options without doing any research into cheaper areas. Yeah, rent is rising, but that's why you don't live in neighborhoods catered toward college students who have never lived in a city before.
posted by deathpanels at 8:22 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


A couple people have mentioned that there used to be boarding houses and SROs and variations options beyond every family unit (whether a single person or a couple or a family) having their private apartment or house. Someone else mentioned that we think it's okay for "kids" to live communally (in dorms, with roommates, in shared houses) or for old people to do the same in retirement homes, but that in the middle, people are supposed to have "better".

I am a little conflicted about this. Mainly, it's shared bathrooms that trip me up. You're kinda vulnerable in the shower. And there's the stumbling to the bathroom at 3:00am thing (mentioned above) and the idea of getting locked out of your room in that situation. Plus, you know, some people function better with a certain amount of alone time. Community is not the same as communal living. We've got a nice communal yard in our building, but if the only nonsleeping living space I had was shared with people I'm not in a close relationship with, my mental health would suffer. I like my neighbors, but I would not choose to see any of them on my way to the shower in the morning.

My Chicago condo was built as an apartment building in the 1920s and when I bought my condo, I got to see copies of both the original blueprints and the original brochures. It had (and still has) a wide range of unit sizes in the building: studios, one bedrooms, two bedrooms, up to four bedrooms. Some were one bedrooms with murphy beds in the living area. I imagine there were all sorts of living arrangements.

Each had a bathroom, although nothing smaller than a two bedroom had a real kitchen with an icebox and oven. The small ones had a galley kitchen with a sink and a hot plate (basically, the 1920's version apodment sink and a microwave) and there was a restaurant and grocery on the ground floor of the building. I don't recall if there were iceboxes in the units, but you could definitely keep butter bread and eggs for breakfast without one. No milk for your coffee, unless it was powdered. It actually was a lot like the first apartment I rented in Chicago, which had one big empty room, no closet, a tiny bathroom and a dorm fridge and tabletop range in the corner. It made me sad that I had to *buy* food which required an oven, rather than make it. It certainly lacked luxury but it was private and it was more than merely functional.

I'm not sure what my precise point is here. I think we've changed a lot in how we view housing and that it's not all for the better?

I guess one of the problems is the laws that arose to prevent slums or unsafe living conditions. And regulations about ADA compliant units in new construction. And construction costs. And people not wanting high-density housing being built on their block. And setting up places so people can live there without having to drive everywhere all the time because it's so much harder to build high-density if you need one parking space per person. (That's just ridiculous!)

And there's the history of failed housing projects to overcome.

I guess it's that it feels like it should be possible to provide inexpensive, basic housing without it being unsafe or demoralizing. Small spaces that allow people privacy for all their basic needs (sleep, bathing, eating, companionship) should trump small spaces that require people to do one or more of those things communally. There are more options than just "luxury" or "dormitory".
posted by crush-onastick at 8:52 AM on May 11 [8 favorites]


Deathpanels: i agree.
Crime and perceived crime really do limit do limit people's options. And some people do want to live right next door to whatever it is they do even with busses and trains . There are nicer ones low income neighborhoods and the ones where lots of bad things happen.The housing options exist. But quality does change. I have a nice two bed (see above) but the heat only comes out of two locations the living room and the kitchen. In the winter we have to keep the doors open and fan the heat into the bedrooms. If I was able to pay 3 or 4 hundred more I wouldn't have that problem in my neighborhood but I can't. So here I am. Otherwise it is a really nice apartment. Though somebody was stabbed next door and I see people frisked by police regularly. Some people can handle that and other people cant.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:53 AM on May 11


A decade ago my husband and I moved from somewhere really cool but expensive to a deeply unhip city to pursue his career. Oddly enough, because of the economic opportunities in the unhip place, rents and real estate prices soon moved to catch up with prices in the hip place we'd struggled to afford before that. Of course we had more money and so it was easier for us than it had been, but the new unhip place soon become a difficult one for young people and working class people to afford.
Fast forward 10 years and my husband's now very specialised job was suddenly at risk because of a changing economic climate, so his company asked him to relocate from unhip but expensive Perth Western Australia to an even more unhip place, one on the other side of the world (Calgary, Alberta). And we said yes, because he is the breadwinner and his very specialised career is important, even though it entailed leaving behind everyone we know and selling our house and sending our dog to live with my parents and me leaving my part-time work and pulling our daughter out of her excellent childcare situation and so on.
Funnily enough this unhip place is no cheaper to rent a house in than our old city, because economic opportunity tends to attract people, and people tend to want places to live!
True, we could have rented a place further away from my husband's work, but a short commute (currently around 1/2 hour) for him was important because we have a small child and he wants to see her occasionally during the work week. Also if we'd moved further away the public transport options would be limited, so we would have needed a second car, which could have pretty much blown whatever rent savings we'd have made. And I feel like we did compromise on a place - we live close to amenities but we don't have a yard, which I miss greatly, as does our child.
Add onto this that I am no longer working and everything that entails and it's been a really hard and difficult time for us, and we are very lucky to have a financial cushion and my husband's work is well-remunerated, but travelling home to see our families is going to chew up a substantial chunk of whatever we manage to save.
Anyway the point of this story is that moving for cheaper rents or other economic reasons is a really complicated equation and it's not as simple as just relocating to flyover country to find a cheap place in an unhip town and hoping that the rest will follow. That's not how real life works for most people, enmeshed as we are in the lives of other humans, with obligations and families and multiple priorities competing for top spot.
posted by jasperella at 8:59 AM on May 11 [17 favorites]


The thing about the apodments is that sure, they'd be great if they were ~225 square feet and had a tiny kitchen. I would love a teeny apartment (except somehow I have a mortgage on a giant crumbling victorian instead) but 150 square feet is really, really small. My bedroom, which is a nice size but not a master suite giant suburban bedroom, is about 185 square feet, excluding the closet.

The funny thing is, I lived in an itty apartment that was, in its entireity, probably about 150 square feet - but it had its own kitchen and bathroom. The central room was probably only about 7.5 by 10 , the kitchen was very small and the bathroom was a regular medium-small bathroom. There was an average closet. It was great. But it was great because it was well designed and in good condition - there was a very small but good stove, a small sink, the smallest kind of full-sized refrigerator, a little bit of storage and counter space and just room for a tiny table. It was probably the most comfortable place I've ever lived - a small window unit kept it perfectly cool in summer, it stayed warm easily in winter. You couldn't exactly throw a party there, and the living space was pretty much "full sized bed on minimal frame, simple book case, compact armchair, tiny TV. (I actually had two bookcases and sat on the bed.) But it was nice. I'd be totally into apodments like that - but then they wouldn't be total rip-offs designed to make as much money as fast as possible off the desperate.
posted by Frowner at 9:10 AM on May 11 [6 favorites]


It's been touched on quite a bit here, but the whole 'just move to a smaller city' thing is such a completely one-dimensional, incorrect solution. My family and I tried this. It's not necessarily realistic.

I lived in Portland, Ore. all my life (save for bouncing around in my college years, but still in the Pacific Northwest). After my wife and I had our first kid, we looked at moving to the northeast to be around her family (Seacoast NH/Maine area). We were a bit fed up with the gentrification, the cost of living, and the lack of advancement in the city. We thought that moving to a smaller town/city would be good for both our careers. We tried really hard to find a place that had a balance of culture, food, and a low unemployment rate. We researched really long and hard and settled on Portland, Maine.

We only ended up staying for just over a year, then coming back to Oregon.

There are a million reasons why we ended up leaving back for Portland, Ore. But really it broke down to the fact that our skillsets were in different demand in different places. For my wife, she found a pretty decent job right off the bat. I ended up being unemployed for nearly the entire time we were there and when I was employed, it was at near minimum wage levels. If you're part of a couple, there's a really good chance that an overlap like that can happen.

In terms of rent? Yeah, it was a bit lower. We were getting paid much less than we were in Oregon, but the rent didn't scale to that AT ALL. In fact, not much did scale with that wage decrase. Food was just as expensive, child care was actually more expensive, owning a car turned out to be much more expensive thanks to a crazy-corrupt inspection system (and we needed two cars in Maine…we barely need one car in Oregon; my son and I bike commute everyday, year round unless it gets too cold, then we take the bus, and my wife drives to work and back, that's it). I keep a pretty detailed budget, and looking at our situation now vs then, it was actually 23% more expensive for us overall to live in that particular smaller town. Our rent was a little bit less, but mainly the extra car and childcare, compounded with transportation needs, it was markedly MORE expensive to actually live somewhere with lower rents and a statistical lower cost of living.

This kind of topic is really complex and interconnected to hundreds of different aspects of 'living somewhere.' If it was as easy as 'just moving' to a cheaper place? Sure, that would be great. But it's not that one-dimensional.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:12 AM on May 11 [17 favorites]


Why are so many things liberal, progressive, cool, and hip ; just so, so near unaffordable for the masses?

I left ATX for the change - my 78751 apt. I lived in is now renting for more than double what it was in 2009. And the only change to teh property has been to xeriscape the courtyard from ground cover and 12' shade producing trees to lava rocks and a pair of el cheapo iron benches. Ick. And I do miss the 'vibe'; but OMG every time I step out of the car when passing through; I find myself wishing for a spacesuit of sorts... 85 degrees + 80% humidity + massive car overload on the roadways = gacggck; am I high on carbon monoxide? Or am I depressed due to it bonding to the oxygen in my blood? Whut?

The income disparity that exist between the renters v. the owners in so many of the cool high rent areas resemble a caste system - $1000 a month rent is not going to parity out to a mortgage on a home in the area that starts at $350,000+; not to mind the bonkers property taxes in some locations. Roughly a third of my rent went directly to cover the property tax on the apartment building in ATX. That was a sobering realization about what a rent actually pays.

So many people; they long to live in the cool areas covered by the article. Neat; and yeah ... is a person's hourly pay or salary going to double or more to make up for the cost increases? The pay to play scenarios and the latent conservatism, speechless. Showing a traffic cam or crime report in of some of these areas can do a lot for what a IRL is like in them. Bonkers.

Not going to even breech the marijuana laws in so many of these cool and hip cities. The spice flows freely; but OMG; get caught with a 0.5 gram joint and kiss a paycheck or two goodbye to pay costs.

Colorado; it is the California of the 21st century. Lovs 4 allz.
posted by buzzman at 9:13 AM on May 11


I am a little conflicted about this. Mainly, it's shared bathrooms that trip me up. You're kinda vulnerable in the shower. And there's the stumbling to the bathroom at 3:00am thing (mentioned above) and the idea of getting locked out of your room in that situation. Plus, you know, some people function better with a certain amount of alone time. Community is not the same as communal living. We've got a nice communal yard in our building, but if the only nonsleeping living space I had was shared with people I'm not in a close relationship with, my mental health would suffer. I like my neighbors, but I would not choose to see any of them on my way to the shower in the morning.
I think it's fair to say that if you were raised in a culture in which communal living was standard practice, it would not strike you as unusual to have casual relationships with people just based on their proximity to your living space.

Personally, I have lots of problems even living with people who I know and care about, and a lot of that is because I was socialized to expect a certain degree of personal space which is simply impossible without a big suburban house. If I had grown up in Kowloon Walled City, I'm sure that I would feel freaked living in a two-bedroom apartment shared with one other person because it would be too isolating.
posted by deathpanels at 9:15 AM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I moved from Chicago to a fairly-unhip Midwestern college town because I got a job here. It turns out that there's an influx of people moving here from Chicago. Nobody knows how many, and nobody really knows the demographics of people who are moving here from Chicago, but the local discussion of "people moving here from Chicago" is about low-income black people who are moving here in search of jobs, safer neighborhoods, a higher standard of living, and better schools. And that definitely is a thing, although like I said, hard data about numbers is hard to come by and a lot of that discussion is overblown, ugly and racist. But I wouldn't discount the possibility that people already are moving to "unhip" areas (although I'm not sure that hipness is really a factor for a lot of us. I wasn't particularly hip when I lived in Chicago, and I certainly didn't live in a hip part of town.) Whether that makes sense for any particular person or family is, I think, going to depend on a lot of different factors that we all weigh individually. And honestly, I don't think that people need to be told to move to unhip places, because there's a lot of word-of-mouth advertising that goes on, which is the same as with previous migration streams. People recreate their old networks here, rather than pitching out like pioneers to a place where they don't know anyone.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:16 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Dave99: 2010-2013 were especially bad years because in 2009-2010 development basically stopped in the city. It seems silly now even just a few years later but at the time their was a serious worry that the housing market was about to crash hard. 1 Rincon, for instance was doing so poorly that the development of the second tower was completely halted. Development was stalled long enough that when it became obvious that at least in the sorry term there wasn't going to be a crash, people had to start over with expired permits, etc.

(Also comparing rise in units with population is a bit disingenuous because one unit generally houses more than one person, but the numbers are still pretty bad.)
posted by aspo at 9:18 AM on May 11


Crunching. Underfoot. Yo.

As a kid walking to elementary school in in Brooklyn, I collected them to see how many different colored caps I could collect...
posted by Stu-Pendous at 9:20 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity what industry is that? In this day and age where any place with wi-fi can be an office it's hard to imagine a business that can only exist in 4 places

Telephone Sanitizers? All these people who need to live in big cities seem to be Ark B candidates.
posted by 445supermag at 9:28 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I think it's fair to say that if you were raised in a culture in which communal living was standard practice, it would not strike you as unusual to have casual relationships with people just based on their proximity to your living space.

I was raised in apartments in cities for pretty much all of my childhood and although dorm living was okay in college, I'm glad I don't have to live like that now. Being unused to or unwilling to share space in that way is not a sign one was raised in suburban wastelands. Clearly it works for some people and that's great. As the places are designed and marketed now, they don't seem like they'd be good for people with children, and single people who prefer less forced community (and would like the opportunity to wander pantsless to the bathroom in the middle of the night without either scaring someone or maybe being assaulted) shouldn't have to have that as their only option if they don't make all the money.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Yes, it would be pretty terrible if apodment living were the only option for single adults. My earlier comments in this thread come from the point of view that apodment type units would merely be an option, albeit one that will be seemingly more available. I'm not sure where we crossed the line into presuming that apodments would be the only option, and I surely hope that this will never be the case.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:34 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


I actually knew some folks who grew up in tiny, cramped apartments in Shanghai - like, one friend slept on the couch in the living/shared/dining room, her father had his own tiny room and the whole place would have been more cramped except her mother had died tragically young - and they wished they had more space. My students were six to a dorm room, and although people often had good friendships, they complained constantly about the sheer lack of space and quiet. I'm not saying that no one ever likes living in tiny noisy housing, but I surmise that enjoying some privacy and quiet (for whatever standards of privacy and quiet are the norm in your culture) is pretty much a human universal. I don't think "I like to be by myself in a room where I can close the door" is some kind of sign of degenerate spoiled Americanism - it may be a sign of global modernity, in that it would not be an expectation in, say, farm workers' families in England in the eighteenth century, but even farmworkers in the late nineteenth century were getting totally into the alone-time thing when it became available, as you can tell from memoirs.
posted by Frowner at 10:55 AM on May 11 [9 favorites]


an even more unhip place, one on the other side of the world (Calgary, Alberta)

Rents correlate to both job prospects and demand (which I suppose includes hipness). Montreal for example is both a much cheaper and much hipper place than Calgary.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:03 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity what industry is that? In this day and age where any place with wi-fi can be an office it's hard to imagine a business that can only exist in 4 places

Telephone Sanitizers? All these people who need to live in big cities seem to be Ark B candidates.


It might boggle your imaginations, but there are some industries left in North America where people do physical things with expensive equipment -- like biotech or chemical engineering. Not every job involves writing code or importing stuff from China.

You can possibly move to a town where only one company can hire you, but many of them serve as "roach motels"... they entice you with a decent offer, but once you move, they underpay you since they know you would have to uproot your family to leave.
posted by benzenedream at 11:10 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]


>DC: "This one's near "up-and-coming" H Street. It's $811.”

Ha! My 1 BR is twice that and that’s after five years of rent control. I’m seeing non-luxury 1 BRs in the $1900 range now. Don’t even ask about all the new construction because ain’t nobody interested in building anything without “luxury” in the title. I don't really even understand what "luxury" means when it comes to four walls but whatever. If I really wanted a luxury stove and countertop in my apartment, I could buy them on installment at Home Depot for way cheaper than thousands in dollars of rent each month but whatever. Same with that gym and wifi and dog park and whatever but whatever. I guess people like throwing money away, but it would be nice if those idiots weren't allowing owners to strangle out the low end market for the rest of us.

Amenity-wise, my neighborhood is comparable to the hip part of H-Street (Or, AHEM, the Atlas District), but it’s further along in the transition game. There’s still a murder or an attempted murder on my block about once a year or so.

Just browsing Craigslist from across the country doesn’t really tell you anything. For a 1 BR in DC at that price, you have to either win the "answer the ad first and hope it’s not a scam" lottery or have a high tolerance for unsafe neighborhoods. It’s unfortunate that so many people have to live in dangerous neighborhoods but the Catch 22 is that that as soon as the neighborhoods become better, the people already living there are priced out. H Street is actually a good example of that phenomenon. Columbia Heights is several years further along than H Street and parts of Anacostia are starting to head down that road.

In real reality, $811 for a risk averse person in DC is going to mean sharing a room in a house that’s not well managed and sharing space with 3-5 other people.

>Anoplura: Housing is expensive because we value it so greatly.

(Poe's Law much?) Assuming this is a sincere comment, we could say the same about high quality drinkable water, too, but if someone was manipulating the market for water in my city for the purpose of speculative investment I would be pissed off beyond belief for good reason.
posted by Skwirl at 11:11 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


Not every job involves writing code or importing stuff from China.

If you're importing stuff you might need to live in a port city.

But I don't think people are talking about coders working from home when they make these comments. They're taking about the million other jobs that exist in every center. Like accounting for example. The majority of American's don't live in the top 5 cities, and there are still jobs for most of them.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:28 AM on May 11


It might boggle your imaginations, but there are some industries left in North America where people do physical things with expensive equipment -- like biotech or chemical engineering.

I know that very well, it's what I do. But those weren't the jobs given as examples is upthread, I saw fashion, TV, Glossy magazines and the various luxury professionals.
posted by 445supermag at 11:30 AM on May 11


>445supermag: Telephone Sanitizers? All these people who need to live in big cities seem to be Ark B candidates.

It’s almost like you selectively forgot the punchline to that story.

>crush-onastick: And there's the history of failed housing projects to overcome.

I think it’s important to note that the failure of modernist housing ideals has a lot to do with institutional apathy and, especially in previous decades, institutional racism.

Nobody wants to give power to the disenfranchised. No one wants to get down in the muck by dealing with housing on the personal level.

HUD consistently rates as one of the worst Federal agencies to work at in both OPM and Washington Post surveys. That’s not just because housing is hard to do, it’s because HUD has been riddled with mismanagement whereas other Federal agencies with similarly complicated missions do just fine. Worker bees at HUD almost never step foot in a HUD supported low income building.
posted by Skwirl at 11:41 AM on May 11 [1 favorite]


oh, yes! What I meant about the history of failed housing projects was that people don't think critically about why housing projects failed. They just think "dense housing that includes rent subsidies are crime-riddled dangerous broken down places" when the reasons projects became crime-riddled dangerous broken down places are significantly more complex than "dense housing with rent subsidies". So instead of thinking that dense housing, with units set aside for people who need assistance, is a good thing (if done carefully and well), they think dense housing and assisting poor people is scary.

I know I certainly felt that way when Cabrini Green was still a terrible place and I did not really understand anything at all about how the world works and does not work. I don't know that I have any real answers, but we do need solutions and I find it hard to believe that solutions can't be found.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:48 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Part of the reason working with HUD is a nightmare is that it is filled with hundreds (maybe thousands)of tiny programs that serve a very specific population and they all behave slightly differently.

I work with two HUD programs and am familiar with about 15. Some base what is fair market value for an apartment based on a calculation of a certain percentage of rent based in the entire city area. Some base it by zip code. (The formulas are complicated and I won't explain it here). Some serve people with criminal backgrounds others don't. Some figure out 30 percent by multiplying your rent by 3 others use deductions and allow for subsidies. Some want specific quotas of regular and low income. Some just serve people with a specific disability and no one else. Some are harm reduction model some are abstinent only. Some are project based and others are scattered site. The list goes on and on. It's easier to create a new program than it is to modify an existing one to meet unexpected needs after a few years. And then don't get into to funding and agencies loosing and gaining funding all the time.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:54 AM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the longer this conversation goes on the more it sounds like income inequality is at least half the problem.

This is the root problem of damn near everything wrong with America today. We're just seeing the effects on the next generation of the post-1980 policy decisions that deliberately fostered wealth inequality and made it easier to maintain inequality. Damned if you could get a national politician to talk about raising taxes on the rich and cutting spending on things that don't benefit the taxpayer, though. Somehow the solution is always "Cut even MORE services for poor people, make it even more difficult for them to get out of poverty, and while we're at it, let's ratchet up another War either at home or abroad."

Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.

Congrats, you demonstrated that the janitor may not be the brightest bulb in the bunch. What's your point?
posted by nath at 12:15 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.

Bless your heart. You genuinely think that, I bet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:24 PM on May 11 [19 favorites]


It is a source of constant amazement to me that the belief "The hand of the open market will regulate everything optimally!" arising from its axiom "People are rational actors!" (because the open market is people in aggregate, no?) and the belief exemplified by "people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test," not only co-exist in the culture, they often co-exist in the same believer's mind.

Here, let me attempt my own slogan/soundbites: External Factors Exist. Everyone's Circumstances Are Different. Luck Does Matter. Privilege Exists. All of these apply to the "Why don't you just move?" question, too.
posted by seyirci at 12:35 PM on May 11 [4 favorites]


Indeed. Also, the whole "if you have a job, and it doesn't let you afford a decent and comfortable place for your family to live, it's not a job. It's a hobby you're making some income from" thing really needs to be restated as "if you have a business, and you claim you can't afford to pay your employees a living wage, you don't have a viable business model, and if your employees are eligible for government assistance, *you* are the one on welfare, not them."
posted by ambrosia at 12:57 PM on May 11 [52 favorites]


We can talk all we want about individual choices. Sure, each individual has some amount of choice over where to live. But we need to be asking what we want our communities to look like. The same day that I saw an article in one newspaper discussing a shortage of chefs in NYC, I saw a comment on a different article (this one discussing how little most chefs get paid) saying that chefs just shouldn't live in New York.

Which... boggled my mind a little bit. A New York without chefs is a New York without restaurants. Who wants to live in that New York? Maybe struggling actors just shouldn't live here. Then we'd have a New York without Broadway. Maybe grocery store workers can't afford to live in New York, then we'd have a New York without grocery stores. Maybe the guy who makes my sandwiches every day at the deli can't afford to live here, maybe I should just live in a New York where you can't buy a sandwich. Maybe New York should just be hedge fund managers, lawyers and finance guys. I'm sure they would love not having anywhere to eat or shop.

There are hundreds of people I depend on every day just to live a not-particularly-extravagant life in New York. Transit workers. Laundromat workers. Retail clerks. Somehow we need a housing policy (also an economic policy) that works for everyone, so we don't wake up in a Galtian future and discover we need to somehow get rid of our own trash, the garbage collectors all having collectively decided that they should really just move to the Midwest.
posted by matcha action at 1:28 PM on May 11 [20 favorites]


Maybe you'll get a New York where fry cooks get $15/hour, as happened here.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:40 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


American's

Grocer's apostrophe. :( I blame AutoCorrect.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:41 PM on May 11


The same day that I saw an article in one newspaper discussing a shortage of chefs in NYC, I saw a comment on a different article (this one discussing how little most chefs get paid) saying that chefs just shouldn't live in New York.

These two things are not incompatible. One is lagging the other.
posted by rr at 2:13 PM on May 11


Well this thread has finally convinced me - it's a Rich People's world, we're all just (barely, somehow) living in it. Us, with our not-a-real-jobs and our Molock IQ's, we want to exist in an actual city, without being cartoon-villainous Masters of the Universe? The nerve!

Might as well face it, we're rabbits in Flint now. Pets, or meat.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:40 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


Also -- people who pursue low-paying careers in expensive places don't need government subsidies or interventionist policies, they need an intelligence test.

So unskilled and semi-skilled labor still has to get done somehow, even in expensive cities. Somebody has to clean the toilets and pick up the trash and bus the tables. So either you have to start paying people a living wage for doing that kind of work or create affordable places for them to live (or both).
posted by octothorpe at 3:12 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


it all depends on where you are and what you need, life is full of choices

Sure, life is full of choices, but with wages for most pretty much frozen for the last decade if not more, or definitely not in line with the cost of living, particularly rent or mortgages, very few people, relatively speaking, have much choice when it comes to owning or renting a decent living space. They can't buy it with fantasy money, nor rent it with fantasy money, and the country as a whole has hateful, short sighted policies that will continue to fuck over the majority, and somehow, with great success, an attitude of fuck them I've got mine they're lazy seems to be very popular. Community, concern, empathy, etc. are all "socialism" and are frowned upon within the current system.

The fact that the employees of major multi-billion dollar department stores need food stamps is appalling. If there are enough great paying jobs for everyone, where are they?
posted by juiceCake at 3:17 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Having recently worked at a remote job on a team where everyone else was local, I felt I was at a tremendous disadvantage relative to in-office people with respect to cohesion, awareness, and productivity. Just missing the casual lunchtime conversations and after work events, those were bad enough. But not being within earshot of workday stuff, and being in a different timezone ... it was like taking a 20 point IQ hit.

There are exceptions to this – superstars who are one-person teams, and companies where most workers are remote so on an even field – but I think that generally remote work doesn't allow one the same advantages as being local.
posted by zippy at 4:00 PM on May 11 [7 favorites]


America owned by billionaires, others suffering. News at 11. Let's whinge about on the Internet and see what happens...

What will happen is that more of the people for whom this fact actually is news - some of whom seem to be in this very thread - may finally realize that this is something that should be addressed.

After all, there are lots of movements which started with talking to people about them. Unless you consider things like Invisible Man or The Feminine Mystique to be "whingeing about things in print".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:15 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


America owned by billionaires, others suffering. News at 11.

Let's whinge about on the Internet and see what happens...


What you're doing by saying this is not the same as what other people in this thread are doing in their speech, and neither constitutes whining.
posted by clockzero at 4:16 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


As a concrete example, here is a listing (in Japanese but with layout and photos) of a well-lit, clean apartment 23 square meters built in 1980 just 8 minutes walk from Shibuya Station, Tokyo. Just shy of 250 sq feet, but all yours for about 700 USD. I intentionally chose a "hip" area. Go elsewhere and you can find more space. As wuwei commented, government policy to support a healthy housing system for everyone works. And, there is still no shortage of people getting very wealthy from controlling real estate.
posted by Gotanda at 5:26 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


And, there is still no shortage of people getting very wealthy from controlling real estate.

It's interesting - I think in the US in particular there's this uncritical, almost knee jerk thing that happens where people go "government regulation is bad therefore there can be no regulation at all!" that helps keep the discussion very all-or-nothing, when all over the planet there are many models that work, in the sense that yeah, super rich people can still play the real estate game, and not-super-rich people can still have pleasant places to live that won't bankrupt them, even if those people are "stupid" enough to work in fields like education or government and stuff.
posted by rtha at 5:53 PM on May 11 [6 favorites]


Gotanda, you can live even more cheaply by picking a second-string city like Kanazawa — you can live within walking distance of Kanazawa station (which is still a fairly sizable city overall) for under $500 a month, even if it isn't a huge apartment. My apartment (a rather nice 50 square meters) is 15 minutes' walk from Fukui station (and admittedly, the city is basically the Des Moines of Japan, but it's just an hour from Kanazawa, two hours from Nagoya or Kyoto, and three hours from Osaka) and under $650 a month. It might be because of government involvement, but somewhere along the line someone seemed to have figured out that the point of housing is to prevent you from dying of exposure while you sleep, and not to serve as an investment with literally infinite growth.

Between housing price insanity, privatized healthcare, the idea that ready access to pistols should be a god-given and wholly inalienable right, unlivable minimum wages, public transit that is generally regarded as being mainly for poor/bad people, increasingly obvious oligarchy, open corruption of the government under the guise of "lobbying," and the continuing existence of institutionalized racism and just-under-the-surface segregation, I literally feel that I cannot regard the US as a first-world nation anymore, and I say this as someone who grew up there. There's just so much that's done so much better, pretty much everywhere else.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:01 PM on May 11 [13 favorites]


I'll just let my husband know I would prefer to live in Montreal, and to magically transport his office, his colleagues, his projects and his clients there so we can benefit from the hipness and the low rents. Let me call the removalists right away!
Actually on that point - moving is damned expensive and people who think you should just up and move places ignore just what a painful and costly process that is. Our last move was paid for by a company but even with that we spent thousands of dollars on establishing ourselves overseas. Granted a move within a country isn't as expensive as an international move, but paying movers and then paying for a new lease and new utilities to be connected along with all the other little things that mount up is not an inconsiderable expense for most people.
posted by jasperella at 6:16 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


Even here in Minneapolis, which seems to be some kind of cost-of-living Mecca, rents are spiraling out of control in the hip neighborhoods. More and more people who could buy a house are choosing not to, which is great for the environment and vibrant communities and all that, but sucks for the people who couldn't buy a house in the first place. This is a national phenomenon and has less to do with what metro area you are in than what kind of housing you prefer within your metro area.

I hear my friends talk about moving to the suburbs as if it is worse than killing your grandma and robbing an orphanage, which is a pretty intense degree of social stigma that I think is only a few years old. And we're in an area where the suburbs are only 15 minutes away!
posted by miyabo at 6:30 PM on May 11


we're in an area where the suburbs are only 15 minutes away!

15 minutes away by car, perhaps? It seems like that's a pretty big step for a lot of people, particularly within the subset of people living within an urban environment. Increasingly, people are going through high school & college either without getting a driver's license, or getting the license but not getting a car. (I was definitely one of them. Only got my license because I lucked into an internship which required it for transit)

I don't particularly think it's a bad thing that more people live in denser environments, for the points mentioned by others above, but it definitely makes for a much steeper transition from city to suburb than 'It's just 15 minutes away!'; and 'It's just 15 minutes & a car payment & gas & insurance & parking away' doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
posted by CrystalDave at 6:43 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


I actually bought a house before I bought a car or felt halfway confident driving. This seemed like a completely reasonable thing to do at the time. But it was a house close to the city center in Minneapolis where I could bus or bike reasonably easily.
posted by miyabo at 6:58 PM on May 11


"I hear my friends talk about moving to the suburbs as if it is worse than killing your grandma and robbing an orphanage, which is a pretty intense degree of social stigma that I think is only a few years old."

I read something a while ago that housing trends w/r/t city/suburb trail popular sitcoms by about 10-15 years. Teenagers who grow up watching the Brady Bunch look for a house in the suburbs; teenagers who grow up watching Seinfeld and Friends look for apartments in the city; what you see on TV influences your ideas about what a "good life" in your 20s and 30s will look like.

The most popular sitcoms for the last three years have been Big Bang Theory (city but everyone drives), How I Met Your Mother (NYC, transit-focused), and Modern Family (suburban). So I'm not sure what to divine about the future of housing from that!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:15 PM on May 11 [3 favorites]


In fifteen years everyone will want to live at a community college inside Rockefeller Plaza.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:24 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


@DoctorFedora, Oh sure! In a city like Kanazawa you can live quite well. It's "second tier" but beautiful. I picked Shibuya on purpose as pretty much the "hippest" option. Mrs Gotanda and I do very well in less fashionable but very convenient, Gotanda, Tokyo. We live in a nice enough apartment that doesn't break the bank. I could never afford the equivalent space and location in New York, SF, or Boston. Never. I like to visit the States, but find it very hard to imagine ever living there again for many of the reasons you mentioned.
posted by Gotanda at 7:29 PM on May 11


I hear my friends talk about moving to the suburbs as if it is worse than killing your grandma and robbing an orphanage

It may signify to them: getting old, becoming "boring" and giving up on dreams of uniqueness or artistic greatness, having a straight job that isn't really that interesting but which you can't quit, or other undesirable fates.
posted by thelonius at 7:30 PM on May 11 [5 favorites]


Or it may mean "I'd have to scrape up the money for a car because there's no fucking public transit so anything I'd save by living there I'd lose twice over".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on May 11 [9 favorites]


Well, that's one of the reasons you can't quit the job. It all works together!
posted by thelonius at 7:38 PM on May 11 [2 favorites]


I hear my friends talk about moving to the suburbs as if it is worse than killing your grandma and robbing an orphanage, which is a pretty intense degree of social stigma that I think is only a few years old. And we're in an area where the suburbs are only 15 minutes away!

I'm also seeing more and more gray-haired boomers in my apartment complex in a somewhat hip neighborhood of Minneapolis.
posted by gyc at 9:21 PM on May 11


Gotanda, yeah I was shocked when I started spending time in Tokyo during the mid '00s. Growing up I'd always heard about how expensive Tokyo was, and when I got there, I discovered that in many ways it was cheaper than the SF Bay Area. That was eyeopening in the extreme.
posted by wuwei at 10:08 PM on May 11


I'll just let my husband know I would prefer to live in Montreal, and to magically transport his office, his colleagues, his projects and his clients there so we can benefit from the hipness and the low rents. Let me call the removalists right away!

Ok! Let him know!

I'm not saying move to Montreal, I'm saying I agree with you that not-hip doesn't always equal not-expensive (Calgary has high wages, near-zero vacancy and low unemployment). In fact hip can be less expensive (Montreal has lower wages, higher vacancy and higher unemployment)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:45 AM on May 12


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Philadelphia in this context. Rent is dirt cheap, housing is cheap, everything is cheap. I'm not sure how the job market is, but its great for anyone in the medical field.

Whatever they are doing there, they're doing something right. A lot of it has to do with with a HUGE amount of housing stock.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:07 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I moved from ATX to DC about three years ago, and my head nearly exploded when I was comparing rents and what you got for it. My wife and I managed to buy - I think - the LAST "affordable" house in southwest DC about a year and a half ago. I am utterly astounded at what the prices have done in just two years, and how much wealth has infested the city.

Here's the weird part, though. In Austin, you could go maybe 10 miles outside the city and start seeing a decrease in cost of rent or buying. In DC, it's more like 50 miles.

I realize this is commonplace to the natives, but it really made me start paying attention to the concept of income inequality. It is quite in your face in DC in a way I never appreciated before.
posted by Thistledown at 7:15 AM on May 12


LAT: What McMansions say about Americans: Stupid is as stupid does

Salon: Let them eat McMansions! The 1 percent, income inequality, and new-fashioned American excess
posted by Room 641-A at 7:33 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Housing costs are artificially high in my college town because a high percentage of residents are having their housing costs subsidized by rich families back home (often overseas); or are willing to see it as part of their student debt and an investment in their future earnings; have enough grant, scholarship, and/or stipend money to ease the burden; and/or are happy to share with ridiculous numbers of other students. That kind of demand drives up the prices for everybody else.

Since I can't drive (bad night vision) I end up having to pay more for housing closer to work and public transit. Luckily, my job pays for my bus pass, so I have zero transportation costs while many of my colleagues live a couple of towns over and pay in gas, car repair, and parking fees anything they save on rent and mortgage payments.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:40 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Can I just clear up something about the Apodments? Yes?

Every single micro unit has it's own bathroom and shower. So yes. They're very tiny. But no. Mandatory sharing of a bathroom isn't happening.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:42 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


LAT: What McMansions say about Americans: Stupid is as stupid does

Here's a better article, without the braindead op/ed and hyperbolic cartoon.

It's a 3000 sqft infill in a neighbourhood of 2000 sqft homes. "McMansion" to me usually means a much larger house thrown up quickly by a developer on vacant land in an exurb. The buyer is drawn in by the cheap sticker price and forgets about the terrible quality of the construction, increased maintenance and long commute. This, on the other hand, is probably a well-built, expensive home that happens to have some neighbours crying NIMBY.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:39 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I'd like to speak in defense to the Apodment phenomenon in Seattle:

Yes, they're overpriced for what they give you, and they are cramped. However, I may be moving into one in the near future - I'm currently actively divesting of the possessions I don't need in preparation for this. So when the time is right, I can jump into one. I don't even have my own bed or dresser; the place I'm renting is furnished. In 5 years, I've bought two tables and a bookshelf. All cheap Ikea stuff.

Why? I want to go back to school, either part time while working, or full time. My school in Seattle, SCCC, is in Capitol Hill, which is really expensive. Where I live now is with a roommate in a more remote neighborhood. I barely use the stove, most of my cooking is done in a crock pot and rice cooker, she's home all the time watching her horrific TV shows, so as a consequence I spend most of my time in my room or out and about. Paying $750 a month for this space where I have to sequester myself in order to feel comfortable? I might as well pay $750 or a little more for a space that's truly mine, in a neighborhood that's much easier to get out and around in. Even the U District/Wallingford will be better than Columbia City for me. And? New construction, which is much more amenable to my allergies. Also? I can't drive - no license, because medical reasons.

My other options? Paying twice as much for a studio I'm barely going to use, along with furniture I'd have to buy. Paying roughly the same price for a place in an older building, where my allergies are probably going to get a lot worse. Paying roughly the same price for a place, but isolated in an outlying neighborhood - in which case I might as well stay where I'm at. Or, dealing with another roommate situation, and the potential consequences - hogging of public spaces, not understanding my allergies or dismissing them, dealing with passive/aggressiveness or non communication, battles over refrigerator and cupboard space, using others supplies without permission, etc. I'm over that. And if this means that I live in a place half the size garage while I get my education and career sorted out, then so be it. I need a space where I'm in control of everything.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:04 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


About international students driving up housing costs: it's not like we have many other options. We don't have the luxury of time or local knowledge, and many places won't rent to us without a credit score. The last place I lived at, the landlords wanted double the deposit because I was a "rental risk"; they only backed down when a friend offered to cosign.
posted by divabat at 12:47 PM on May 12


Yeah, I really don't buy that international students drive up housing costs. Most international students are rich by home-country standards, but a pretty small minority of them are so rich by home-country standards that they're rich by US standards. They don't typically have much more money to spend on rent than US students do. A bigger problem in my town is that landlords can make a lot more money renting shitty, poorly-maintained apartments to students than renting decent apartments to grown-ups, so a lot of downtown rental real estate is pretty crappy.

I also think that if you live in a college town, you can't complain but so much that the students distort the housing market, since the students are kind of the whole reason that the town exists. If there were no students then housing would be really cheap, but a lot of us wouldn't be here because our jobs would be somewhere else.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:21 PM on May 12


To be clear: I didn't say it was only international students, and I didn't say it was the fault of the students themselves.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:29 PM on May 12


And I also didn't "complain" about them - I merely described the economics of the situation. I've found a setup that works for me within that economy.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:41 PM on May 12


The most popular sitcoms for the last three years have been Big Bang Theory (city but everyone drives), How I Met Your Mother (NYC, transit-focused), and Modern Family (suburban). So I'm not sure what to divine about the future of housing from that!

In fifteen years everyone will want to live at a community college inside Rockefeller Plaza.


Hah.

Maybe it's a big leap, but talking about how people expect to live in 15 years makes me think about visions of the future more generally. It seems like people aren't too optimistic about the future these days, doesn't it? Everywhere in American culture there are visions of apocalyptic futures or appealing days past; unlike in recent history, though, those visions are the most popular entertainment of our time.

Even though people might feel viscerally like a zombie apocalypse is not unlikely, given how complex and chaotic the world appears to be, and how delicate and fragile a stable and prosperous democracy seems, complete breakdown is pretty unlikely. What's more likely is that current trends will lead people to outcomes that are entirely predictable even now.

In other words, the really horrifying possibility (to me, anyway) isn't that we'd have a complete apocalypse, nor a 1984 or Hunger Games-style dystopia, but just another 20 years of politicians smoothing over the state of affairs in which business is more powerful than government and regular citizens lead lives of increasing deprivation and reduced life chances. I'm not worried that the sky will fall, I'm worried that things will continue to get incrementally worse, nearly everyone will suffer, and there won't be any big change to that pattern.
posted by clockzero at 1:55 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


clockzero-- In the US, it's a slow crash into something like the Philippines, I think.
posted by wuwei at 2:28 PM on May 12


Well, this thread has got me seriously considering moving to Philadelphia in a couple years dependent on a couple other factors, so I think I owe someone thanks....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:31 PM on May 12


clockzero-- In the US, it's a slow crash into something like the Philippines, I think.

I'm unsure what you mean but curious to understand.
posted by clockzero at 2:39 PM on May 12


"The explosion of rent prices in the Bay Area is the effect, first, of the massive amount of capital set free by the crisis, unable to find any productive outlet... Wall Street has created a new class of rent-backed assets to funnel capital toward the purchase of houses for rent by big institutional buyers. REO Homes, LLC, an investment firm, has bought up over half of the foreclosures in West Oakland; after making a few repairs, it can rent these out for prices that are at the very top of the range for the area." Land and Liberty – Against the New City
posted by larrybob at 2:53 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


What I mean by that is a system with sharp divides between rich and poor. Small middle class. It's difficult to start a business, and most people who do can do it because of family money. Most of the economy is controlled by a few families. The well to do live in armed enclaves with private security-- everyone else does the best they can. Very little income mobility, and an economy that never gets anywhere close to full employment.

Government maintains the fiction of representative democracy, while running death squads and killing the opposition. Most government agencies are ineffectual and corrupt, etc.

Now that I'm thinking about it, if things keep up the US will probably play out a little differently than the Philippines-- law enforcement and the prison system are well-paid and very efficient. The legal system is good at putting people in prison and keeping them there. That's really what it's for. Justice? There is no justice, this system is a lie.
posted by wuwei at 2:54 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


The fact that apodments have private bathrooms changes the equation for me considerably. I can definitely see a situation where a shared kitchen is worth it, particularly for people who aren't exactly roasting a turkey every Sunday.
posted by KathrynT at 2:59 PM on May 12


somewhere along the line someone seemed to have figured out that the point of housing is to prevent you from dying of exposure while you sleep, and not to serve as an investment with literally infinite growth.

Japan has had the (macroeconomically problematic) advantage of a culture of saving rather than treating homes as the basis of future security. Hard to do that in counriees where housing (both owner-occupied and the lure of rentier wealth) has taken the place of the idea that income will rise commensurately with national wealth, especially in cities whose housing stock has become a repository for global capital. But not impossible, if policy isn't being dictated by rentiers.
posted by holgate at 3:01 PM on May 12


The fact that apodments have private bathrooms changes the equation for me considerably. It does for me, too. I mean, apodments do not address the underlying issues of income inequality, poor housing policy or NIMBYism. Nor would they be an option for some people of modest means. But that they have private water closets makes them less horrifying to me.

I don't have a problem with them, I guess, as one form of affordable housing, but I do fear the idea that rich people can have whatever kind of housing they want, in whatever sort of urban or rural or in between environment that they want, but low wage earners can only have 200 square feet. That feels inescapably like a gross physical manifestation of a valuation of their merits as human beings.

I don't know how to reconcile my dislike of the idea of pods for the poor and homes for those with higher incomes with the seemingly rational idea that, of course, a studio is cheaper than a one bedroom is cheaper than a two bedroom is cheaper than a townhouse.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:51 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Well, didn't it used to be that young unmarried men and women would live in single-gender rooming houses with breakfast and dinner included, complete with a curfew and a landlady who would supervise the place? Am I making that up based on Wodehouse novels and old movies?
posted by KathrynT at 5:07 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


If they could afford it, they did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:11 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


My great great grand parents ran a boarding house for men in Manhattan (Central Park West!) in the 19th Century. Their school teacher daughter took a fancy to one of the young men who had moved down from Ct. to work at a Wall Street bank and they subsequently married.
posted by octothorpe at 5:40 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Here's a better article, without the braindead op/ed and hyperbolic cartoon.

"McMansion" to me usually means a much larger house thrown up quickly by a developer on vacant land in an exurb. [...] This, on the other hand, is probably a well-built, expensive home that happens to have some neighbours crying NIMBY.


Okay, but in the context of this particular opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, they are specifically talking about tearing down existing homes in the heart of the city:
“Builders are snapping up smaller, older homes, razing them and replacing them with bigger dwellings. Increasingly, sleek, square structures are popping up along streets known for quaint bungalows,” Emily Alpert Reyes reports in the L.A. Times.

Reyes points to a 3,000-plus-square-foot spec house on a block in Hollywood where most homes run 2,000 square feet.
Point being, once-affordable smaller homes are being destroyed and being replaced with more expensive (spec!) houses that are built out to the edge of the property lines. The result is that the squeeze on affordable housing is coming from both ends. Or, as reporter Emily Alpert Reyes put it in the "non-braindead" piece you linked to:
Builders are snapping up smaller, older homes, razing them and replacing them with bigger dwellings. Increasingly, sleek, square structures are popping up along streets known for quaint bungalows.
By the way, Ted Rall, the author of the opinion piece I linked to as well as the cartoon, is a well respected and award-winning political cartoonist. Hyperbole is what they do.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:59 PM on May 12


Hell, my great-grandparents were still taking in lodgers in the 1950s. But their kids also grew up sleeping three to a bed, so I think people had expectations about space and privacy that were different from what most of us would have today.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:23 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


matcha action: "The same day that I saw an article in one newspaper discussing a shortage of chefs in NYC, I saw a comment on a different article (this one discussing how little most chefs get paid) saying that chefs just shouldn't live in New York."

We're having a foreign worker kerfuffle here in Canada; especially of the low skilled variety. They had a bunch of businesses owners in Whistler on CBC last week complaining about how the probably temporary freeze on low skilled foreign worker visas are going to make things impossible for them because Canadians don't want the jobs.

Well sure, no one is going to work at minimum wage part time work someplace where that income doesn't cover the rent for a 12 person house share.
posted by Mitheral at 8:02 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Point being, once-affordable smaller homes are being destroyed

I guess if you made it illegal to build a house any larger than the existing one, there would be less incentive to tear down. Although I question if those 2000 square foot bungalows are affordable.

I've seen this play out in my own city. Some neighbourhoods had pre-1960 bungalows that were/are being replaced with two 2-storey infills with much smaller yards. Others with different zoning had pre-1960 bungalows that were gut-renovated. In both cases the properties are worth so much due to their location that they aren't affordable.

and being replaced with more expensive (spec!) houses that are built out to the edge of the property lines.

There are laws about lot coverage, and it looks like they are being followed. Some of the new square footage is on the second storey.

Most of the op/ed was about how huge, gaudy and cheaply made the new houses are. It seems to me the old ones were large too and there's no evidence the new is less well-built than the old. These are one-off houses, not quickly constructed subdivisions.

I suppose it would tragic to lose a bit of direct sunlight and see windows where you used to see trees and sky. But if you want a fossilized ranch subdivision, IMO you need to move out of the city to somewhere with a HOA. In Hollywood your neighbours have the right to build a 2-storey house on the land next to your bungalow.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:18 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Most of the apodment-type microapartments also have (or have space for) a mini-fridge and a microwave, which with a bathroom with a tap makes for a pretty complete living space for a LOT of people who don't cook much and just need to store leftovers and nuke them.

(My favorite dorm room in college was just big enough for the bed and for the door to open. I had the bed up on stilts, with a fridge and my dresser and a two-shelf bookcase under it, and a tiny TV perched precariously on a windowsill. It had two windows because it was a corner room, and it was two stories above a chapel with a piano where people practiced a lot, and it was fantastic, and ever since I've been fascinated with tiny, well-organized living spaces, so it's possible I spend a lot of time looking at microapartment floor plans. POSSIBLE.)

The hope is that it wouldn't be "poor people in pods" so much as "people who want smaller living spaces can get them, freeing up larger living spaces for families or people who want/need more space, reducing rents." Where I went to grad school, the smallest apartments were typically two-bedrooms with a livingroom and kitchen, which meant everyone had a roommate (flatmate) and meant that two-bedroom apartment prices were artificially inflated by all the grad students who didn't need or want that much space but that was as small as it got. Microapartments would have been perfect for grad students who wanted private space but didn't need a lot of it, wanted to save money, and had campus spaces to do most of their socializing, which would have opened up more apartment stock for, say, single moms with two kids who wanted a two-bedroom with some space in the form of a living room. Urban areas used to have more diverse housing options (from victorian mansions complete with servants to boarding houses catering to every possible life circumstance), and a lot of those cities supported extensive neighborhoods of rowhouses or single-family homes within reach of the working poor. (The trick, of course, is to keep these alternative housing options safe, which means well-regulated, which means added cost ... so finding a way to balance modern safety concerns with economic and bureaucratic costs of the regulation.)

w/r/t modern expectations for space and privacy, a lesser-known safe, affordable housing battleground is that a lot of states or cities have laws about the minimum amount of space required to put a child in a bedroom. If you own your own home and you're popping out kids, nobody's really going to come check and see if you've got six kids stuffed in two tiny bedrooms, but if you're trying to rent an apartment (or a house) or if DCFS gets involved in your lives, suddenly it becomes an issue, making these "minimum space" requirements serve as yet another a hidden tax on poor families, and often an effective mode of racial or economic discrimination by unscrupulous landlords. On the one hand, you don't want beds packed in such that it's a fire hazard; on the other hand, a tiny bedroom with a bunkbed for two kids and the children spending most of their waking time in public areas of the home is a totally reasonable decision families should be free to make.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:57 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


The apodments are basically identical (though with better architecture) to what my grad school offered as housing to grad students. It wouldn't work as lifetime housing for most people, but it is fine for someone who needs certain amenities and not others at that point in their life. Like I said above, I'd kill for it currently, and I wish every city offered a much wider array of rental options. As the Eyebrow says, every person who is better served by an apodment or whatever is freeing up a "real" apartment for other people.

And I'd emphasize that we need better options at the top end (eg apodments) and at the bottom end (eg SROs). Both need flexible zoning but also high standards for safety and health.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:12 PM on May 12


Dip Flash: "And I'd emphasize that we need better options at the top end (eg apodments) and at the bottom end (eg SROs)."

Wait, your scale goes from SRO to apodment?
posted by pwnguin at 10:50 PM on May 12


Wait, your scale goes from SRO to apodment?

What else should be the end points of a scale of small, urban dwelling options for a single person looking for a furnished, month-to-month place to live? SROs in various forms have traditionally been the low-budget end point (such that getting rid of them directly sends people into shelters, weekly motels, and/or homelessness) and I'm not aware of high amenity options other than hotels and in some places furnished apartments aimed mostly at corporate clients.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:51 AM on May 13


I don't think I can get behind any affordable housing model that holds a working kitchen to be a luxury. Particularly if you don't have much money and your options for eating out are limited, having a real kitchen is pretty much the only way you're going to have access to decent, healthy food. SROs exist and fill a need, and I'm sure there would be a limited market for apodments, but as a single person who has only recently started earning a middle-class income, I would really hate if that became the default model for single people who weren't rolling in money.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:09 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Well, this thread has got me seriously considering moving to Philadelphia in a couple years dependent on a couple other factors, so I think I owe someone thanks....

Its really a great town and so freaking affordable its nuts. I had a 1 bedroom apartment in Rittenhouse Square, which is the fanciest of the fanciest, for 1k a month.

Now I live in the burbs of NJ, 5 miles from the city, 20 minutes to my wife's work, and a 15 minute high speed line away, great school distict, and I pay $1500 for my house. The real estate crash hit Philly hard.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:33 AM on May 13


are those people supposed to live in some far off suburb and commute for an hour and half both ways every day?

Maybe this is just NYC Stockholm Syndrome talking, but that is my normal, everyday commute. It doesn't seem too bad. I somehow manage to still lead a fulfilling life. I also get to catch up on my reading or music.

Talking about this perfectly normal occurrence as though it were Dickensian is surreal. Is there any real reason that this should be looked at as dire? Because otherwise, it seems a perfectly fine solution.
posted by corb at 6:59 AM on May 13


Maybe this is just NYC Stockholm Syndrome talking, but that is my normal, everyday commute. It doesn't seem too bad. I somehow manage to still lead a fulfilling life. I also get to catch up on my reading or music.

If you had kids you had to pick up from day care and then cook for once you got home, would you feel the same way about your commute?

And how much are you getting paid at that job you commute to, and would you feel the same way if it was about half as much?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


People get used to really long commutes pretty quickly. My commute right now is 10 minutes and the idea of spending almost 3 additional hours a day commuting fills me with horror. That's 15 hours a week or almost a full two working days unpaid. I've been there and done that and have zip, zero, nada desire to do it again.
posted by Mitheral at 7:26 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


I don't think all commutes are the same, either. When I lived in New York, I was young, childless, and lived and worked at opposite ends of a subway line, so I could always find a seat. I commuted 1.5 hours every day, but I could use that time to relax, wind up or down, and read. An hour and a half driving in stop-and-go traffic would have been awful in a way that my subway commute wasn't.

But yeah, especially for people with families, long commutes really eat into leisure time. They add to stress, make it harder to cook healthy food, and take away from time to exercise. I think long commutes really are a public health issue, and in that sense they kind of are Dickensian, even if they don't always seem that way to the people who are actually doing them. I'm sure that people in Victorian London thought that was just the way things were, too.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:31 AM on May 13


Well, combine 3 hours of commuting with the expectation that you will be contributing to the team's output with your minimum of the 9-7 work schedule, and I believe we have just consumed 13 hours of your day every workday.

Because if you aren't prepared to give more than the minimum at work I don't see how an employer can be expected to take your career seriously if you won't. Up or out with you, and you aren't getting any younger, lots of go-getters on the make in this buyer's market for skills.

Good thing you got the STEM skills to be allowed to compete for the valued positions, so you can pay for the higher rent your landlord will charge next lease.

All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
posted by dglynn at 7:31 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


SROs in various forms have traditionally been the low-budget end point

One of the things I noticed on my last visit to London was the building out of 5/6-storey blocks of what you could call "general purpose people housers": student dorms if that market's available (taking advantage of the de facto subsidy of parental support and educational loans to cover housing) but easy to convert to SRO / boarding houses if the student market dried up. The problem with these projects is that they're designed primarily to extract money (especially from foreign students in Fashionable East London) rather than to address a housing problem. If they're not sufficiently profitable as housing, they'll probably rejig them again into office space.

I think Eyebrows McGee is right that there's always been a tradeoff in cities of private against public living space, especially for younger people. The problem right now in the developed Anglosphere is that "public living space" has been slowly privatised, and that social housing has been cashed out for a quick buck, whether by former renters offered the right to buy as a political sop, or by local authorities divesting themselves of their housing stock.
posted by holgate at 7:58 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Particularly if you don't have much money and your options for eating out are limited, having a real kitchen is pretty much the only way you're going to have access to decent, healthy food.

Well, but in an apodment, you HAVE a real kitchen. You just don't have exclusive access to it. (And your rent includes a cleaner for the kitchen, so you can avoid the filthy vermin magnet in a lot of shared housing.)
posted by KathrynT at 8:01 AM on May 13


If you had kids you had to pick up from day care and then cook for once you got home, would you feel the same way about your commute?

And how much are you getting paid at that job you commute to, and would you feel the same way if it was about half as much?


Yes, yes, and I do social work. I assure you, it is not for the, um...shall we say less-than-princely salary?
posted by corb at 8:03 AM on May 13


Okay, you're okay with that level of a commute. Then I guess my next question is - do you ever wish it were shorter? I accept that you've accepted that "well, this is just the cost of having to take the pay scale I want" - but, have you ever questioned why people should just accept that this is the status quo?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:13 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


When I had my first kid and Mr Corpse had a commute of over an hour each way from lower Manhattan to Queens, it was... an issue for us, shall we say. I was home with the baby so we didn't have to deal with daycare, but holy crap did it suck to have him gone 12 to 13 hours every day.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:20 AM on May 13


I mean, sure, I wish it was shorter, just like I wish I made more money, had perfect skin, could get my pre-teen to do everything she's told, and could eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound. I guess my issue is when people seem to be implying that my daily grind is effectively a human rights violation that no one should be forced to endure, it gets my goat.
posted by corb at 8:33 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I guess my issue is when people seem to be implying that my daily grind is effectively a human rights violation that no one should be forced to endure, it gets my goat.

I fully believe that for many years of my life I endured conditions that nobody, especially in a supposedly first-world nation, should be forced to endure. One of those conditions was a two-plus hour commute on hot, sardine-packed, filthy, hideous-smelling trains during which I could not read nor really even enjoy music, because of the crowd and noise and lack of seating.

I can't imagine how it would "get my goat" to admit that things really shouldn't suck so very very hard all the time for anyone poorer than a lawyer or doctor. It certainly doesn't now, and at the time I was too cripplingly miserable to do anything BUT admit it.

Do you think we're somehow saying it's your fault that conditions in much of the modern U.S. are despicable?
posted by like_a_friend at 8:40 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


It's not a human rights violation, but it's not a force of nature like bad weather or fire ants, either -- it's something that's in our power as a species and a government to change. So then the next question is, do we want to do what it takes to change it? The answer might be "no," but that's different than "it's impossible to change."
posted by KathrynT at 8:41 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]


It's not a human rights violation, its a failure of public policy and proper planning.
posted by ambrosia at 8:46 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


It's a failure of public policy and proper planning, and a winning of this kind of corrosive attitude that seems to insist that if things aren't as terrible as they can possibly be (walked uphill in the snow! both ways! with no feet!) then there are no grounds for criticism and anyone who suggests that maybe things should be better is just some kind of whiny weakling. People who decided to be school teachers or social workers or nurses in low-income clinics aren't assholes for not wanting to commute two hours just so they can both have a job and a place to live, not to mention some disposable income so they could contribute to the goddamn economy by going out to dinner sometimes or buying some new clothes or gadgets or a washing machine.
posted by rtha at 8:56 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]


I mean, sure, I wish it was shorter, just like I wish I made more money, had perfect skin, could get my pre-teen to do everything she's told, and could eat whatever I wanted without gaining a pound.

Yeah, but your having perfect skin, a high metabolism and an obedient child aren't things that can be voted on by the public. Availability of affordable housing in a convenient location is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


1.5 hours every day

That's not even a really long transit commute if you're talking door-to-door. 10 minute walk + 5 minute wait + 20 minute ride + 10 minute walk = 45 minutes each way. I'm sure it sounds horrible if you're used to parking at home or at work, and driving in between.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:16 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Availability of affordable housing in a convenient location is.

FWIW, the US actually has remarkably low average commute times when compared to other developed countries.
posted by yoink at 10:26 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Corb, i think comparing your commute in NYC(with it's awesome subway which snakes way out into different boroughs, giving it some of the best public transit in the entire freaking country) to the commute people would face pretty much anywhere else is unfair.

An hour and a half reading a book on the subway, at worst switching trains in weather protected underground stations is only vaguely related somewhere down the family tree to riding cattle car like overpacked buses standing room only where you can't do anything but sigh, possibly not even listen to music because of the noise and will likely transfer at least once out in the elements... or sitting in shitty stop and go traffic burning money on a car, gas, and maintenance since just buying a cheap metro pass isn't even vaguely an option for your commute.

This isn't even getting in to the fact that plenty of lower end service industry jobs now in my city say "Reliable transportation required, bus doesn't count" so people are forced into owning cars after being forced to move further and further out.

There are entirely different levels of suck, and drain-on-your-life for this type of thing. Forcing people out of cities cuz free market and by extension, requiring them to contribute 15 or more hours a week of their time to contributing utterly nothing to society or themselves actually does strike me as some kind of evil, and not just some whiny princessy 1st world problems "and i wish i had a pony!" thing that you seem to be wanting to paint it as just because you experience the least crappy possible version of that time suck and have rationalized it as not being all that bad.

That's not even a really long transit commute if you're talking door-to-door. 10 minute walk + 5 minute wait + 20 minute ride + 10 minute walk = 45 minutes each way. I'm sure it sounds horrible if you're used to parking at home or at work, and driving in between.

Maybe i should have clarified, i meant 1.5 hours each way. So 3 hours a day.
posted by emptythought at 10:44 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


FWIW, the US actually has remarkably low average commute times when compared to other developed countries.

Pure commute time is only really part of the equation though. My two hour commute would not have been a catastrophe at all on a clean, quiet, reliably-functioning and properly climate-controlled train, where I could have had a seat and read a book.

Which is a thing that exists in, like, all of two places in the US, both of which are astronomically costlier than my current city.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:48 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


Trying to return to the general point: the broader problem even in cities with coherent and half-decent transport networks is that property speculation means populations change faster than the network can adapt to them. The older model was anticipatory: the building out of Metro-land in north London followed the railway, and I'm pretty sure the same applies to the LIRR, Metro-North and other parts of the NYC region.

(Tangentially, there are people on the outskirts of London who've lived in places with crappy commuter services and ongoing construction for years in order to be close to Crossrail once it's completed and get a better commute and property value bonus from that.)

Property bubbles and the rapid contraction of social housing push people beyond the existing limits of the urban transportation network, accompanied by a weird rhetoric from some that poor people aren't "entitled" to urban housing, given current market rates. Well, you're equally not entitled to have your bins emptied if the binmen have to commute from Bedford.
posted by holgate at 1:32 PM on May 13


Are there any cities which have an "unoccupied unit" tax? The idea would be to disincentivize speculative buying or targeting a "luxury" market that might not be fully occupied; it might also discourage owning of multiple units by the global rich. But ideally it would not cause added cost for renters (occupied units wouldn't incur the cost), or owners in a first home.

I am curious to know if this has been tried, and what sort of unexpected side effects might have arisen.
posted by nat at 1:42 PM on May 13


Are there any cities which have an "unoccupied unit" tax? The idea would be to disincentivize speculative buying or targeting a "luxury" market that might not be fully occupied; it might also discourage owning of multiple units by the global rich.

I was already thisclose to reaching out to Mayor DeBlasio about this very thing on the heels of him announcing his housing-crisis plan. You have officially just given me the final boot in the ass I needed to go ahead and write him. Thank you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Washington, DC has a tax on vacant property. I think it's mostly aimed at getting people to clean up derelict houses, rather than to dissuade rich people from buying homes that they're not going to live in full-time.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:57 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Are there any cities which have an "unoccupied unit" tax?

The trend has been going the other direction in some places: squatting (which you could call a kind of "tax on vacancy") became a criminal offence in the UK in 2012 when previously it had been dealt with through the civil courts. The Guardian recently ran a series on vacant mansions in London. Never mind that squatting has often been a precursor to development -- I still remember the Silo in Amsterdam in the late 90s, and that area's now got this. (Though squatting's also illegal in the Netherlands now.)
posted by holgate at 2:04 PM on May 13


One thing that clearly happens in DC is that multifamily housing owners often leave units vacant to skirt rent control laws. For instance, vacant units increase a building's value when it is sold because the buyer will have to buy out or otherwise displace fewer tenants in order to renovate and create luxury apartments or condos.

This is significantly factored into the selling price using formulas to determine the Net Operating Income and Cap Rate. It is so finely tuned that actuarial estimates are used to determine how much longer a senior with added rent protection is expected to survive and therefore to keep inconveniently occupying a unit.

I know of buildings that are up to 1/3rd empty because of this. Another reason to leave vacancies is to ride out the market. If a unit is locked at $1900/mn due to rent control but the market will only currently bear $1600, then it makes sense to sit on the vacant unit hoping for a sucker as opposed to renting it at market price and therefore resetting the rent level.

One could argue that rent control therefore distorts the guiding hand of the free market. But one could also argue that housing is a right and that property speculation adds no contribution to society other than the exploitation of real and artificial scarcity.
posted by Skwirl at 3:57 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I don't think this has been linked to yet — apparently one study found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 515 Euro more (or 40% of an average monthly wage in Germany) to compensate for the dissatisfaction caused by their long commute.

From personal experience, apparently the current advice for resumes is to not include what city you live in, because it's just one more thing they could use to disqualify you: "Oh, this applicant lives in Concord but we're located in San Jose. They'd probably want a chunk more money to make it worth their while to commute this far, or they'd quit after not too long. Nah, let's stick to people who live closer." (Never mind, as the resume coach pointed out, that you might be planning to move to wherever the job may be located — they've already round-filed your application.)
posted by Lexica at 7:45 PM on May 13


From personal experience, apparently the current advice for resumes is to not include what city you live in, because it's just one more thing they could use to disqualify you: "Oh, this applicant lives in Concord but we're located in San Jose. They'd probably want a chunk more money to make it worth their while to commute this far, or they'd quit after not too long. Nah, let's stick to people who live closer." (Never mind, as the resume coach pointed out, that you might be planning to move to wherever the job may be located — they've already round-filed your application.)

I've been seeing a lot of job announcements saying variations of "local applicants preferred." I had interpreted that as meaning they didn't want to relocate someone from 2000 miles away, but I hadn't thought of the commute issue -- sometimes they might mean LOCAL local, no commuters need apply.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:01 PM on May 13


Honestly I don't see much of a problem with that. If local people (for whatever definition of local they want to use) can do the job why not give it to them. If only from an environmental point of view. Preferentially hire someone who can bike to work instead of commuting an hour each way by car. Everything else being equal you'll probably have a happier employ as well because they haven't had to endure the stress of commuting. Plus when the snowpocolapse hits they can walk home.
posted by Mitheral at 9:33 PM on May 13


From personal experience, apparently the current advice for resumes is to not include what city you live in, because it's just one more thing they could use to disqualify you

People often sign up for commutes that are unsustainable. At that point one of two things happens - they quit or they start trying to work from home (which is fine in some cases but legitimately not at all fine in others).
posted by rr at 11:05 PM on May 13


If local people (for whatever definition of local they want to use) can do the job why not give it to them.

I take your point, but it rewards accidents of fate, and has the potential to become insular and self-perpetuating, especially if we're talking about jobs that offer decent money and the potential for social mobility. It's like the pursuit of the "good school district" where property prices get driven up even further because firms only hire locals, and a bit like the way entry-level media jobs are primarily available to people who come from rich enough households to afford an unpaid media internship in a big city.

Cities are furnaces fuelled by people. Always have been, and always will be.
posted by holgate at 11:19 PM on May 13


Mitheral: "Honestly I don't see much of a problem with that. If local people (for whatever definition of local they want to use) can do the job why not give it to them. If only from an environmental point of view. Preferentially hire someone who can bike to work instead of commuting an hour each way by car. Everything else being equal you'll probably have a happier employ as well because they haven't had to endure the stress of commuting. Plus when the snowpocolapse hits they can walk home."

Oh, so are we moving away from "anybody who isn't willing to move to where the jobs are is an unmotivated schmuck" to "anybody who doesn't already live where the jobs are is SOL"? Good to know.
posted by Lexica at 3:05 PM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I cannot regard the US as a first-world nation anymore, and I say this as someone who grew up there. There's just so much that's done so much better, pretty much everywhere else.

5 Dirty Secrets About the U.S. Economy
The US is a rich country that’s beginning to resemble, for the average person, a poor one. Its infrastructure is crumbling. Its educational systems barely educate. Its healthcare is still nearly nonexistent. I can take a high-speed train across Europe in eight hours; I can barely get from DC to Boston in nine. Most troubling of all, it is poisoning its food and water supplies by continuing to pursue dirty energy, while the rest of the rich world is choosing renewable energy. The US has glaring deficits in all these public goods — education, healthcare, transport, energy, infrastructure — not to mention the other oft-unmentioned, but equally important ones: parks, community centers, social services.

So the US should invest in its common wealth. For a decade, and more. Legions of people should be employed in rebuilding its decrepit infrastructure, schools, colleges, hospitals, parks, trains. To a standard that is the envy of the world — not its laughingstock.

Why? If the US invests in the public goods it so desperately needs, the jobs that it so desperately needs will be created — and they will be jobs that (wait for it) actually create useful stuff. You know what’s useless? Designer diapers, reality TV, listicles, reverse-triple-remortgages, fast food, PowerPoint decks, and the other billion flavors of junk that we slave over only to impress people we secretly hate so we can live lives we don’t really want with money we don’t really have by doing work that sucks the joy out of our souls. You know what’s useful, to sane people? Hospitals, schools, trains, parks, classes, art, books, clean air, fresh water ... purpose, meaning, dignity. If you can’t attain that stuff, what good are five hundred aisles, channels, or megamalls?

So: invest in public goods; employ armies to build them; create millions of jobs. And they won’t be the dead-end, abusive, toxic McJobs that have come to plague the economy; they will be decent, well-paid, meaningful jobs which people will be proud to have...

Where will the money come from? Dirty secret number three: It doesn’t matter. Print it. Borrow it. Tax it from the super-rich, in whose coffers it’s merely sitting idly. It does not matter one bit. It’s a second order question. If the U.S. doesn’t invest in public goods, it will not prosper; and if it doesn’t prosper, it cannot pay off the debts it already has. Conversely, if it does invest in public goods, and creates millions of decent jobs, the source of investment will matter little; for the economy will have grown and people will be prosperous. We can debate until kingdom come whether to borrow; print; tax; and we should. But we are having a fake “debate” if we pretend that we cannot invest in society first; and then wring our hands that society is falling apart.
posted by kliuless at 11:11 PM on May 16 [8 favorites]


Metropolitan areas are now fueling virtually all of America’s population growth
Can Oakland Buck The Gentrification Trend?
What happens when the government tries to help poor people move to better neighborhoods?


via Omnivore
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:46 PM on May 28


« Older In seven minutes, you can see the evolution of Lon...  |  Michael Sam (previously), bein... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments